Champion Abel Tasman (Quality Road) returned to her winning ways in style with a runaway decision as the even-money favorite in the ‘Win and You’re In’ GI Ogden Phipps S. early on the Belmont Stakes undercard.

Last year’s champion sophomore filly on the merits of a campaign that saw her win the GI Kentucky Oaks, GI Acorn S. and GI Coaching Club American Oaks, she recently returned from a winter vacation to finish a somewhat head-scratching fourth as the heavy favorite in the GI La Troienne S. at Churchill Downs May 4.

Away slowly from the gate here as the even-money chalk, last term’s GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff runner-up was a close third through the opening quarter in :23.58 and slingshotted herself to the front shortly thereafter to lead by a length through a half-mile in :46.36. Confidently handled by Hall of Famer Mike Smith at the top of the stretch, Abel Tasman was handridden from there to win for fun. Abel Tasman was the regular workmate of her classy 7-year-old stablemate Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), who got the money in the following race in the GII Brooklyn Invitational.

“Her race at Churchill Downs was a disappointment,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “She didn’t run well. You could tell today the light got turned on. I am so proud of her. She’s one of my favorite all-time horses. What she did in the Oaks last year, she brought us from being nowhere to somewhere. It’s good to see these great mares back. She’s a champion and you want to see a champion run like that.”

Smith added, “You know her, 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.”

Pedigree Notes:

Abel Tasman’s dam Vargas Girl, a maiden of eight career starts, was purchased for $130,000 at the 2010 Keeneland January Sale carrying her third foal by Sky Mesa, who turned out to be GIII Dogwood S. winner Sky Girl. Three years later, Vargas Girl produced another Sky Mesa filly in the stakes-placed Moonlight Sky, who brought $675,000 from China Horse Club International at last year’s FTKNOV Sale. Vargas Girl is a half-sister to GISW Bevo (Prospectors Gamble) and GSW Moonlight Sonata (Carson City), herself the dam of GSWs Wilburn (Bernardini) and Beethoven (Sky Mesa), as well as SW La Appassionata (Bernardini). Abel Tasman is her dam’s most recent produce.

SOURCE: TDN 6/9

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