Vale Dori stuns Zenyatta Stakes; Abel Tasman fifth
Courtesy of Steve Andersen of DRF.com
ARCADIA, Calif. - Vale Dori reversed a six-race losing streak with an upset win in Sunday’s Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita at the expense of her champion stablemate Abel Tasman, who finished a dull fifth.
Abel Tasman, the 1-10 favorite, bobbled at the start and raced at the back of the field before she moved into fifth in the field of six on the turn. Ridden by Mike Smith, Abel Tasman trailed by 5 1/2 lengths on the turn and was beaten 10 1/2 lengths in a loss that puzzled trainer Bob Baffert, who also trains Vale Dori.
Immediately after the $300,345 Zenyatta, Baffert feared that Abel Tasman could be suffering from an illness that has plagued some horses in his barn.
“She’s up there where the sick horses are,” Baffert said. “I hope she’s not getting sick. I’m about as stunned as everyone else.
“Mike said she was not into it. That’s not the Abel Tasman we know. She never runs a bad race.”
The champion 3-year-old filly of 2017, Abel Tasman won consecutive Grade 1 races in New York in recent months – the Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park on June 9, and the Personal Ensign Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 25.
The loss will force Baffert to assess whether to start Abel Tasman in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3. Going into this weekend, Abel Tasman was the future-book favorite for the BC Distaff.
Vale Dori earned a fees-paid berth to the BC Distaff with her win in the Zenyatta.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Vale Dori was always near the front. Shenandoah Queen, a 20-1 chance ridden by Tyler Baze, set early fractions of 23.98 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 48.02 for the first half-mile.
Vale Dori took the lead in early stretch and led by a length with a furlong to go.
“I was trying to get her into a good rhythm,” Talamo said. “She was laying perfectly off Tyler’s horse. I had a lot of horse on the turn.”
Vale Dori held off a late threat from La Force to win by three-quarters of a length, finishing 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.88.
“I thought Abel Tasman would be coming up,” Talamo said. “I was glad we were on the winning end.”
La Force finished 1 1/4 lengths in front of Shenandoah Queen, who was followed by Lemoona, Abel Tasman, and Fool’s Paradise.
The loss by Abel Tasman was particularly a shock to show bettors. Of the $474,683 bet to show, $432,344 was placed on Abel Tasman. The result led to odd payoffs. Vale Dori paid $24.60 to win, $13.20 to place and $40.60 to show. Runner-up La Force paid $8.40 to place and $14.60 to show. Shenandoah Queen paid $26.60 to show.
Vale Dori, a 6-year-old Argentine-bred mare by Asiatic Boy, was fitted with blinkers for the first time in the Zenyatta, her 21st start. Vale Dori was in brilliant form in late 2016 and early 2017, winning five consecutive stakes at Del Mar and Santa Anita, including the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational in March 2017.
Vale Dori has won 10 races and earned $1,365,567. Baffert said Vale Dori was close to being retired before Sunday’s race.
“If she didn’t run well that was it,” Baffert said. “I think she got in her groove and showed up.”
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