An aggressive move on the far turn by Mike Smith made all the difference as Abel Tasman captured her second straight win at the top level and took another major step toward earning champion 3-year-old filly honors.
Outsprinted early while trailing the field of seven through an opening quarter in :23.32, the GI Kentucky Oaks heroine began to edge closer entering the far turn through a sensible :46.79 half mile. Smith showed why he’s in the Hall of Fame letting Abel Tasman roll on the bend with an explosive rail run and she hit the front as they straightened for home.
Salty, fifth with trouble in the Oaks, made a bold move on the outside in the stretch and looked like she could be trouble, but Abel Tasman showed her class and kept finding to get the money.
“With this filly here, she’s just getting really good and she showed that the [Kentucky] Oaks was not a fluke,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “She’s that good of a horse. I didn’t like the post. My other horses drew great except for her. It was pretty exciting. The quality she has, I just see it in the mornings. She’s just getting better and better. I’m pretty happy for her.”
As for what’s next Baffert added, “I think a race like the [GI] Alabama [S. Aug. 19 at Saratoga], is definitely in the works for her. Something like that.”
Victress of the GI Starlet S. as a juvenile, the bay kicked off her sophomore campaign with a very good second-place finish behind ‘TDN Rising Star’ Unique Bella (Tapit) in the GIII Santa Ysabel S. Transferred from the Simon Callaghan barn in the interim, Abel Tasman filled the same slot in the GI Santa Anita Oaks behind another ‘TDN Rising Star’ in Paradise Woods (Union Rags) before her sloppy-track score on the first Friday in May in Louisville.
Smith has been aboard Abel Tasman in all three of her starts since moving to the Baffert barn.
“I was a little bit concerned in the first eighth of a mile because she’s so off the bridle,” Smith commented. “But the scary thing about her is if you work too hard to get her on it, then it’s from almost one extreme to the next. I was trying not to do that because of the big turns. I finally got her going easy enough and I thought, ‘OK, this is great.’ I got out in the clear where she kind of likes it, but then they all saw me out there and everyone stayed out. I stayed behind and I tipped out outside of Joel [Rosario, aboard Salty] so he could really see me, and when he looked back I ducked to the inside. Otherwise, I would have lost too much ground out there. It worked. If it didn’t work I’d have been an idiot.”
Abel Tasman is the first filly since Bird Town (Cape Town) in 2003 to repeat in the Acorn after taking the Oaks, and she’s the fourth Acorn winner for Baffert.