Abel Tasman Stands Out in Zenyatta Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 28th, 2018

In this day and age, with an increasing number of top-class horses skipping the final round of Breeders’ Cup prep races in favor of training up to the championship, it’s encouraging to see the highly accomplished Abel Tasman among the six fillies and mares entered in Sunday’s $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita.

Abel Tasman certainly could have trained up to the Breeders’ Cup. The daughter of Quality Road has already won six Grade 1 races, including the Ogden Phipp Stakes (gr. I) and the Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) this season, so a victory in the Zenyatta—while a significant achievement—wouldn’t really embellish her record any further. And she doesn't even need the "Win and You're In" berth to the November 3rd Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) available in the Zenyatta, since both the Ogden Phipps and the Personal Ensign offered that prize as well.

But trainer Bob Baffert has elected to give Abel Tasman another prep run before the Distaff, so racing fans in attendance on Sunday will be in for quite a treat. On paper, Abel Tasman towers over her five rivals, so it’s not hard to envision her putting on a show and dominating the Zenyatta Stakes with ease.

If anyone can challenge Abel Tasman, it might be her own stablemate Vale Dori. The six-year-old daughter of Asiatic Boy won four straight graded stakes races in 2017, including the Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, and while she’s 0-for-4 this season, she seems to be slowly rounding back into form and overcame a slow start to finish second in the Tranquility Lake Stakes at Del Mar last month.

Then again, Vale Dori was still beaten 8 ½ lengths in that race by the runaway winner Shenandoah Queen, a somewhat inconsistent but unquestionably talented filly from the barn of John Sadler. Earlier this year, Shenandoah Queen was beaten just a half-length in the Adoration Stakes (gr. III) over the same track and distance as the Zenyatta Stakes, so it’s not a stretch to conclude that she could be a major player on Sunday.

La Force has won just two of her 21 starts to date, but she did finish second behind the champion Unique Bella in both the Beholder Mile (gr. I) and the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I) this year, so this late-running four-year-old certainly has the class to compete at this level. Completing the field are the three-year-old fillies Lemoona (fifth in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes at Del Mar) and Fool’s Paradise (who switches back to dirt following an eighth-place effort in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks).

The Zenyatta Stakes is the fifth race of the day, with a post time of 2:30 p.m. Pacific.