Abel Tasman Keeps Elate At Bay Once Again In Personal Ensign

The China Horse Club and Clearsky Farm’s Abel Tasman faced off with Elate at Saratoga once again this Saturday, and once again Bob Baffert-trained Abel Tasman came out on top. The 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road, ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, won by a neck as the 3-5 favorite, completing nine furlongs over the fast main track in 1:47.19. Abel Tasman’s victory earns the filly an expenses-paid return trip to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in which she ran second in 2017.

Jockey Jose Ortiz, aboard Elate, lodged an objection after the finish of the race for interference in the stretch run, mirroring the results from last year’s CCA Oaks. Last year, Abel Tasman was on the outside and pinned Elate against the rail, drawing the objection, but the order of finish went unchanged. This year, Abel Tasman, hit left-handed by Smith, bumped hard against Elate at about the sixteenth pole; once again the stewards ruled that there would be no change in order of finish.

“You couldn’t miss it,” Ortiz said. “He [Smith] clearly came out and knocked my filly off balance, knocked me off balance, and beat me by a neck. I think [Abel Tasman] should have come down, 100 percent. I think [Elate] ran a great race. Both fillies did, but, c’mon. Last year he bumped me, this year he bumped me again, and I should have won both of them.”

“Down the stretch, we came together,” said Smith. “[That was] the reason for the foul, but we didn’t knock each other outside. We just came together nice and easy and then after that, we actually did the same thing again when she came down. It didn’t cost either filly anything and the best filly won today. What a gallant race she ran today. It was a really big race she won today.”

Farrell jumped very well from the starting gate, only to be headed by longshot She Takes Heart in the clubhouse turn. She Takes Heart drew off to a three-length lead through a first quarter in :23.31, with Abel Tasman and Wow Cat sharing third behind Farrell as Elate tracked from fifth.

As has become her habit, Abel Tasman made her middle move in the backstretch to take over from She Takes Heart, marking four furlongs in :46.62. Elate kept tabs on the new leader, about three lengths off the pace, then found a seam between rivals entering the far turn.

Abel Tasman led through three quarters in 1:10.26, but Elate made her move around the far turn and drew up alongside nearing the head of the lane. The battle was on from there, and both fillies drifted in in late stretch to contribute to the bumping. Elate could not get by Abel Tasman at the end, and had to settle for second by a neck on the wire. Wow Cat finished third for trainer Chad Brown.

“I didn’t even know there would be an objection because I really didn’t see it, and then I heard the crowd,” Baffert explained. “I wasn’t too worried because it wasn’t like it was a nose or something pretty close. You don’t like to see objections. I told Mike [Smith] when he came back, ‘Mike, you’re killing me.’ I’m just proud of the fact that we had her ready and brought her here and she ran really well.”

Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farm, Abel Tasman was a $65,000 RNA at the Keeneland September sale. She earned an Eclipse Award as last year’s champion sophomore filly, with wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn and CCA Oaks, and runner-up finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Cotillion, and Santa Anita Oaks. Overall, Abel Tasman has compiled a record of eight wins and four seconds from 14 starts, and earnings of over $2.8 million.

“She’s just phenomenal,” said Baffert. “She’s just getting better with age and she’s brought us so much satisfaction. I could have easily run her at Del Mar, but I wanted to come to Saratoga. It doesn’t get any bigger than this, when you can win here in front of all these people on Travers Day.”

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