Abel Tasman Set for Final Breeders’ Cup Prep in Zenyatta Stakes
Courtesy of Aaron Halterman of the Racing Dudes
A field of six is set to battle in this year’s running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park. The race serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event for the Longines Distaff on November 3 at Churchill Downs. There is no doubting who everyone will be excited to see coming into this race. Abel Tasman’s back to back victories headline this field. She finished second in the 2017 Longines Distaff, then later won 3-Year-Old Filly of the Year honors at the Eclipse Awards. This year, she has earned Grade 1 victories in the Ogden Phipps Stakes and the Personal Ensign Stakes, the latter of which came against the powerful Elate. Mike Smith will once again ride Abel Tasman when she breaks from post 2.
The winner of the Zenyatta Stakes will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
Let’s take a look at the full field:
#1 Shenandoah Queen – Her last race was a head-turner, and that makes her interesting in this spot. That start came in the $75,000 Tranquility Lake Stakes at Del Mar, where she defeated her rivals by 8 1/2 lengths under a hand ride. That type of win earned her a shot in this race. The jump up in class is not going to be easy, but she has faced this sort of company in the past.
#2 Abel Tasman – Since moving to the barn of Bob Baffert, this filly has been very tough to beat. Last year, she won three Grade 1 races, including the Kentucky Oaks, while also finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff. This year, she has picked up two more Grade 1 victories and has another in her sights. As of now, she is the strong favorite to win this year’s Longines Distaff.
#3 La Force – This filly must be happy that Unique Bella retired. She has finished second in back-to-back Grade 1 events when matched against that super filly, but now she gets another shot at Grade 1 company, with Abel Tasman replacing Unique Bella as the formidable foe. This filly likes to drop to the back of the pack early in the race. If she can repeat her last two efforts, then expect her to come running late.
#4 Vale Dori – Last year, this horse was running as well as anyone in the country, winning four graded stakes in a row. She rounded out 2017 with a pair of close runner-up efforts to Stellar Wind, which also shows that she was in top form. However, this year has been a complete struggled, with four straight losses. Baffert keeps sending her out there, which means that he still has faith in her, so it’s time for her to show her best race. Her recent workouts have been solid.
#5 Lemoona – After breaking her maiden for trainer Bill Mott in December, this filly was moved to the barn of Richard Baltas with the idea of a west coast campaign in mind. That campaign started off well, with a win two races back against allowance foes at Del Mar. After that win, she tested her talents in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes, where she finished a distant fifth. This will be her second start against stakes company.
#6 Fool’s Paradise – This filly moves back to the dirt after trying turf last time out in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks where she finished eighth by 7 lengths. On the dirt, she has a maiden and an allowance win along with finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Summertime Oaks two starts back.
The Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes wraps up this week’s Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” action. The North American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events return on Friday, October 5 at Keeneland, and continue through the weekend at Keeneland, Belmont, and Santa Anita. Here is the full schedule for the remaining challenge series races:
October 5 at Keeneland
Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes – TwinSpires Sprint
Darley Alcibiades Stakes – Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies
October 6 at Keeneland
Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes – Filly & Mare Sprint
Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity – Sentient Jet Juvenile
Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes – Mile
First Lady Stakes – Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf
October 6 at Belmont Park
Champagne Stakes – Sentient Jet Juvenile
October 6 at Santa Anita Park
Santa Anita Sprint Championship – TwinSpires Sprint
Speakeasy Stakes – Juvenile Turf Sprint
October 7 at Keeneland
Indian Summer Stakes – Juvenile Turf Sprint
Juddmonte Spinster Stakes – Longines Distaff
Dixiana Bourbon Stakes – Juvenile Turf
October 7 at Belmont Park
Flower Bowl Stakes – Maker’s Mark Filly & Mare Turf
The Futurity – Juvenile Turf Sprint
Frizette Stakes – Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies
October 10 at Keeneland
JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes – Juvenile Fillies Turf
For more coverage of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, head over to racingdudes.com
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