ABEL TASMAN returned to her winning ways in style on Belmont Stakes Saturday at Belmont Park in the $717,500 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1).
With jockey Mike Smith aboard, the Bob Baffert trainee took control of the 1 1/16-mile contest on the backstretch and easily drew off in the lane to record a 7 1/2-length victory, her first since capturing the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) last July at Saratoga.
Abel Tasman raced wide after the start as Ivy Bell and Unchained Melody headed for the lead through an opening quarter in :23.58. Unchained Melody backed up after that and Abel Tasman slid right on up to take over from Ivy Bell in :46.36 and 1:10.05.
There was no challenges or threats to the bay lass and she continued cruising on the front end. Extending her advantage in the lane, she crossed under the line in a final time of 1:40.36 over the fast main track.
Sent off the even-money favorite, Abel Tasman paid $4 for the win. Ivy Bell proved best of the rest, 1 3/4 lengths up on Unbridled Mo, who in turn had a half-length to spare on Pacific Wind. Unchained Melody came next and Berned brought up the rear throughout.
Abel Tasman entered the Ogden Phipps off a fourth-place run in the La Troienne Stakes (G1) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day, May 4. That was the bay filly’s four-year-old bow and came six months after her sophomore finale, a half-length second in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) which wrapped up champion three-year-old filly honors for the Kentucky-bred.
Initially trained by Simon Callaghan, for whom she won the Starlet Stakes (G1) and placed in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3), Abel Tasman was transferred to Baffert. She proceeded to place in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) before posting a Grade 1 hat trick in the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes and CCA Oaks. Prior to her Breeders’ Cup second, which was her first try against older runners, she also placed in the Cotillion Stakes (G1).
Abel Tasman has finished worse than second only twice in her career, fourth most recently in the La Troienne and fifth while making her racing debut in August 2016 at Del Mar. On Saturday, the daughter of Quality Road improved her record to 7-4-0 from 13 career starts and has banked $2,412,385 lifetime.
Campaigned by China Horse Club International Ltd. and breeder Clearsky Farms, Abel Tasman is out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Way. She counts as half-siblings Grade 3 victress Sky Girl and stakes-placed Moonlight Sky.
Vargas Way is herself a half-sister to Grade 1 hero Bevo and Grade 3 vixen Moonlight Sonata, the latter of whom produced Grade 2 scorers Beethoven and Wilburn and Grade 3-placed stakes winner La Appassionata.
OGDEN PHIPPS QUOTES
Bob Baffert, trainer Abel Tasman, winner
“I am so proud of her. She’s one of my favorite all-time horses. Her race at Churchill Downs (in the La Troienne) was a disappointment. She didn’t run well. You could tell today the light got turned on. She couldn’t have looked any better coming into this race.
“She had a little slip at the break but then I could tell she was really on the bridle. When she went up there and made the lead on her own, it was good because she was running her race.”
Mike Smith, jockey Abel Tasman, winner
“Today I was able to let her get into stride, and she really loves this surface here, too. She loves Belmont Park. Some of her best races have been here, and even last year was just incredible over this track.
“You know her (Abel Tasman), she does that every time. She gets away slow and then she makes that big middle move. Sometimes it’s better to let her do it, if they’re going slow. If they’re going fast and she does it, that’s when I’ve gotten myself in trouble and that’s happened before. But they were going easy enough that it was OK. She was happy, very comfortable, very happy. I was happy.”
Todd Pletcher, trainer Ivy Bell, second
“(Ivy Bell) made what, initially, appeared to be an easy lead, and then Abel Tasman put in that big run down the back side, so (jockey) Javier (Castellano) just sat patiently on her. She kept on pretty well and I thought it was a pretty good performance. She was second-best on the day.”
Javier Castellano, jockey Ivy Bell, second
“I tried to dictate the pace, but with those fractions – they were really, really fast – I backed up a little bit and tried to earn my place. For the first time going long, she stayed on really, really well.”