Abel Tasman can cement dominance in Zenyatta
Courtesy of Brad Free of DRF.com
ARCADIA, Calif. – Abel Tasman holds a firm grip on the distaff division, one that is likely to tighten when she runs in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.
With Unique Bella retired and Elate and Paradise Woods sidelined, the division has gotten softer while Abel Tasman has gotten stronger and faster. With back-to-back Grade 1 victories in New York, Abel Tasman has emerged as the early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.
“She’s training so much better this year than she was last year,” Bob Baffert said. “This year, she’s breaking a lot better. [Mike Smith] is riding her a little bit differently. She’s up in the race.”
Abel Tasman, a former closer susceptible to pace dynamics, has become a pace-pressing veteran without an apparent flaw. She faces five rivals Sunday in the $300,000 Zenyatta, a 1 1/16-mile race that will be her prep for the BC Distaff on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs.
Her main rivals in the Zenyatta are La Force and Vale Dori. La Force finished second in back-to-back Grade 1 races won by Unique Bella. Vale Dori, also trained by Baffert, is adding blinkers while trying to resurrect her Grade 1-winning 2017 form. The three other entrants are Shenandoah Queen, Lemoona, and Fool’s Paradise.
Baffert considered bringing Abel Tasman into the Breeders’ Cup on works. But why train when you can race?
“She’s doing well, and I don’t have to work her,” Baffert said. “Sometimes you wait-wait-wait. If you run, you don’t have to train.”
Abel Tasman will carry 125 pounds, the highest impost of her career.
La Force likely will start as the second favorite in the Zenyatta. Since switching to dirt in fall 2017, she has gradually improved.
“She seems to have taken to dirt,” trainer Paddy Gallagher said. “She seems to be more consistent.”
Gallagher said 2-for-21 La Force “hasn’t missed a day” in training since her most recent start July 29, a runner-up finish in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch at Del Mar.
Abel Tasman, by Quality Road
Last 3 Beyers: 105-100-89
◗ She has won six Grade 1’s, an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old filly of 2017, and earned more than $2.7 million,
◗ Stabled at Santa Anita for most of her career, Abel Tasman has never won an important race at her home track. She won a Santa Anita maiden race in fall 2016, and finished second in two graded stakes in 2017.
La Force, by Power
Last 3 Beyers: 99-99-89
◗ Drayden Van Dyke rides La Force, a deep closer.
Vale Dori, by Asiastic Boy
Last 3 Beyers: 72-86-82
◗ She is a potential pacesetter. Joe Talamo is her rider.
Shenandoah Queen, by Henny Hughes
Last 3 Beyers: 87-76-79
◗ She won the restricted Tranquility Lake Stakes at Del Mar last month for the second straight year.
◗ Jockey Tyler Baze will have her forwardly placed.
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