May 26, 2024

Abel Tasman faces five in Zenyatta

Abel Tasman (inside) gamely defeated Elate in the Personal Ensign (G1) at Saratoga on August 25, 2018 (c) NYRA/Adam Coglianese Photography

Abel Tasman can take the next step toward another divisional championship Sunday in the $300,000 Zenyatta (G1) at Santa Anita Park, a “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the November 3 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).

Last year’s champion three-year-old filly and Distaff runner-up, Abel Tasman enters on a two-race win streak. A blowout victor of the Ogden Phipps (G1) two back, she next survived a stern challenge from Elate in the last month’s Personal Ensign (G1) to win by a neck despite some late bumping with that foe.

With Elate’s Breeders’ Cup status in doubt due to a recent setback and with the summertime retirement of Unique Bella, Abel Tasman controls her own destiny in regard to securing a champion older female title. The daughter of Quality Road has bounced back well since a shocking, season-opening fourth in the May 4 La Troienne (G1).

Among Abel Tasman’s five rivals in the 1 1/16-mile test is La Force, runner-up to Unique Bella in both the Beholder Mile (G1) and Clement L. Hirsch (G1) in her past two starts. Abel Tasman’s stablemate, Grade 1 winner Vale Dori, adds blinkers in the hope of regaining the form that saw her win four graded stakes over the Santa Anita strip in early 2017. Shenandoah Queen enters off a dominating victory over Vale Dori in the restricted $77,000 Tranquility Lake at Del Mar August 24.

The $200,000 John Henry Turf Championship (G2), a nominal Breeders’ Cup Turf (G1) prep over 1 1/4 miles, features recent Del Mar Handicap (G2) conqueror Fashion Business and the veteran campaigner Ashleyluvssugar, who won the John Henry in 2016.