July 19, 2019

Abel Tasman brings late kick to Acorn cut back

Abel Tasman rallied boldly to post a 1 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 5, 2017 @CoadyPhoto

Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Abel Tasman will cut back to a one-turn mile for Saturday’s $700,000 Acorn (G1) on the Belmont Stakes undercard. After closing from last-to-first among 14 rivals at Churchill Downs, the Bob Baffert-trained filly promises to be running late beneath jockey Mike Smith against seven challengers on Saturday.

A daughter of Quality Road, Abel Tasman concluded her juvenile season with three straight wins including the Los Alamitos Starlet (G1). She opened 2017 with a commendable runner-up to Unique Bella in the March 4 Santa Ysabel (G3) but the performance appeared to take some starch out of the bay when she came back to record a well-beaten second to Paradise Woods in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

Abel Tasman rebounded stylishly in the Kentucky Oaks, registering a field-best 102 BRIS Speed Rating for the 1 ¼-length decision, and she will try to carry her momentum forward from post 3 in the Acorn.

Benner Island and Union Strike, the 1-2 finishers in the 7-furlong Eight Belles (G2) on May 5, are among the challengers. Benner Island registered her first stakes tally with the front-running decision, digging in gamely to repel the late charge of her rival by a head, and the Brad Cox trainee will add a new rider in Jose Ortiz. Union Strike just missed after being forced to alter course in deep stretch and Grade 1-winning juvenile filly merits serious respect in this spot for Mick Ruis Jr. Brice Blanc will be in for the mount.

Sweet Loretta was one of the betting choices in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) following a dead-heat victory in the Spinaway (G1) but the Tapit filly never fired after stumbling at the start at Santa Anita. She made a belated sophomore reappearance for Todd Pletcher, returning with a sharp three-length score in the April 9 Beaumont (G3) at Keeneland, and Javier Castellano will stick with the late-running miss over Benner Island.

Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) heroine Salty is eligible to show more after a fast-finishing fifth in the Kentucky Oaks and the Mark Casse pupil will keep Joel Rosario in the saddle. Grade 2 winner Tequilita, who finished second to Salty in the Gulfstream Park Oaks, exits a seventh in the Kentucky Oaks and Luis Saez will be up.

Multiple Ohio-bred stakes heroine Nikki My Darling and maiden winner Florida Fabulous complete the line-up.