Abel Tasman Looks Tough in La Troienne Stakes
One year ago, Abel Tasmen gave notice that she was a champion in the making by unleashing a powerful late rally to win the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs by 1 ¼ lengths.That was the first of three Grade 1 wins that the Bob Baffert-trained filly would score during her Eclipse Award-winning 2017 campaign, and she’ll seek another when she returns to the site of her Oaks victory for the $350,000 La Troienne Stakes (gr. I) this Friday at Churchill Downs.
On paper, #3 Abel Tasman looks tough to beat. She ended 2017 with a powerful runner-up effort in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I), finishing just a half-length behind champion Forever Unbridled while earning a career-best 112 BRIS speed figure and a 114 BRIS Late Pace rating. The La Troienne will mark Abel Tasman's first start since then, but the daughter of Quality Road has trained up a storm in preparation for her return, posting twelve workouts at Santa Anita (the last five of them bullets) since February 1st. She should be fit and ready to roll in her four-year-old debut, and even the distinct possibility of a wet track on Friday shouldn’t be an issue—after all, her Kentucky Oaks victory came over a sloppy, sealed track.
Abel Tasman’s main competition could come from #8 Martini Glass. The Keith Nations-trained mare ran well against top-class company last year, placing second in both the Delaware Handicap (gr. I) and the Spinster Stakes (gr. I), but she’s been better than ever in 2018 and enters the La Troienne off back-to-back wins in the Royal Delta Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream and the Azeri Stakes (gr. II) at Oaklawn. In terms of Beyer and BRIS speed figures, she might not be quite as fast as Abel Tasman, but her recent run of success is hard to ignore and she has appears to have a clear edge over the remainder of her La Troienne rivals.
One filly that could boost the exotic payoffs a bit is #5 Apologynotaccepted, Runner-up behind Forever Unbridled in the Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II) over this track and distance last summer, Apologynotaccepted was sidelined following the Shuvee Handicap (gr. III) in July and didn’t run against until January. During that time, she was transferred from trainer Bill Mott to Brendan Walsh, and while Apologynotaccepted was a bit dull in her first two starts of the season, she stepped up nicely when finishing a close second in the Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland last time out.
As a front-runner, Apologynotaccepted could have a tactical advantage in the La Troienne—#2 Farrell is the only other speed horse in the race, and she’s shown a dislike for wet tracks and might not be at her best if Churchill comes up sloppy on Friday. As a result, I think Apologynotaccepted is poised to work out a nice trip setting or stalking a slow pace, which could help her finish on the board at a price.
Here’s how I would play the race:
NOTE: Following the scratches of Ivy Bell and Apologynotaccepted, the following wagering strategy has been revised.
$14 exacta: 3 with 8 ($10) $4 exacta: 3 with 2 ($4) $3 trifecta: 3 with 2,8 with 1,2,8 ($12)