Off at odds of 12-1, Clearsky Farms' homebred Abel Tasman provided an upset to the heavily favored Bob Baffert-trained American Gal in Saturday's G1 Starlet, rushing down the center of the track to win by a length. Under the guidance of jockey Joe Talamo, the juvenile daughter of Quality Road covered 1 1/16 miles over Los Alamitos' fast main track in 1:42.25. Trained by Simon Callaghan, the filly earned her first 10 points toward a start in the Kentucky Oaks in her graded stakes debut.
“We thought she would definitely be more forwardly placed, but (jockey) Joe (Talamo) went to Plan B and it worked out,” said Callaghan. “He saved ground and gave her a real chilly ride. I think the distance is the key for this filly. We decided to supplement ($10,000) because she was getting good at the right time and I thought she had the stamina for this race.''
Tapped was hustled to the lead out of the starting gate, followed by Mopotism and Sandy's Surprise through a quick first quarter in :22.79. Easing off the gas down the backstretch, Tapped covered the half mile in 46.78 seconds as Mopotism dropped down to her inside on the rail. Alongside Mopotism was still Sandy's Surprise, tracked by the favorite American Gal out three-wide on the track. Abel Tasman, meanwhile, was a bit out-paced early as Talamo guided her over to the rail in second-last position.
Talamo cleverly kept Abel Tasman on the inside track, and as the field of juvenile fillies swung out entering the backstretch, he was able to put her against the rail and move up into fifth position rather easily. He tipped the filly out approaching the far turn as some of the leaders began to drop back into his lap.
Entering the lane, Tapped Still held the lead over a determined Sandy's Surprise, with American Gal rallying in third. Mopotism had dropped to the rail and had to be taken up as Tapped moved over in front of her. Talamo and Abel Tasman were still fifth with four lengths to make up, and the pair was four paths off the rail at the top of the stretch.
Talamo had to wrestle his filly to get her to change leads, during which time American Gal took over the front position and looked to be an easy winner. However, Abel Tasman was reinvigorated by her new lead and Talamo's urging, and in the final sixteenth of a mile Abel Tasman drew even with American Gal, flying on by that rival to win by a length at the wire. American Gal was second, with a troubled trip leaving Mopotism in third. Sandy's Surprise was fourth.
“She's improving with every start and I knew she was going to run big today because she came home great in her last workout (Dec. 3),” said Talamo. “The added distance was in her favor and it looked on paper like there was a lot of speed to help set things up. I actually thought we would be a little bit closer, but they went pretty fast and it worked out perfect.''
Bred in Kentucky by her owners, Abel Tasman is out of a daughter of Deputy Minster, and did not reach her reserve when bidding stopped at $65,000 at the Keeneland September sale. She was fifth in her first start, but won her next three races in a row, including the Starlet. Overall, Abel Tasman boasts a record of there wins from four starts for earnings of just under $250,000.
Watch the race replay here:
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