Mind Games: Abel Tasman A Real Racing Strategist

by | 09.30.2018 | 9:21am
Abel Tasman trains at Santa Anita Park

Abel Tasman has a mind of her own.

Not an unusual trait for a race horse, and it hasn't deterred her from being a champion.

The three-year-old filly queen of 2017, Abel Tasman has been known to break slowly, then accelerate with noticeable alacrity early on the backstretch when going a route of ground, thrusting concern and fear into the hearts of her connections and her backers, lest she might run out of gas when it counts, in the stretch run.

Not to worry, says her regular pilot, Hall of Fame member Mike Smith, who will be aboard the four-year-old daughter of Quality Road in Sunday's Grade I, Breeders' Cup “Win and You're In” Zenyatta Stakes for fillies and mares, three and up, at 1 1/16 miles.

“It's part of her game,” Smith said of the balky bay, oddsmaker Jon White's 2-5 morning line favorite. “Sometimes she does that, depending on the pace. It's like if she knows the pace is quick enough, she'll sit back. If not, she likes to go up there. You have to be a little careful not to get in her way.

“She likes to do her thing, and as long as she's happy, I know she's going to run big. Sometimes the move might be a little too soon, but it is what it is. I think going forward with her has always been better than maybe holding her to make the right move.”

Abel Tasman has eight victories from 14 career starts, six of them in Grade I races. She has been favored seven times, four times at odds-on, and has earned $2,787,385. In the latest NTRA Top 10 Thoroughbred poll, Abel Tasman moved from fifth to fourth position, supplanting three-year-old filly sensation Monomoy Girl.

“Abel Tasman can be a little bit temperamental, get a little bit mad, and then the next thing you know you have to put her where she needs to be instead of her taking you,” Smith continued. “It's just fun and games; it all depends on the pace. If they're going quick enough, she's fine.

“You'll notice in some of her short races, she doesn't do that when they go quick enough. But some of these mile and an eighth races, they'll break running and then they'll throw the anchor out, and she says, ‘I'm going.'”

The Zenyatta, race five of nine: Shenandoah Queen, Tyler Baze, 6-1; Abel Tasman, Mike Smith, 2-5; La Force, Drayden Van Dyke, 4-1; Vale Dori, Joe Talamo, 5-1; Lemoona, Flavien Prat, 20-1; and Fool's Paradise, Mario Gutierrez, 30-1.

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