Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith tried a similar tactic to that he employed aboard Abel Tasman in the CCA Oaks, moving the Kentucky Oaks winner toward the lead about a half-mile into Saturday's Grade 1 Cotillion Stakes, but it wouldn't work a second time. It was Drayden Van Dyke aboard Tommy Town Thoroughbreds' It Tiz Well who at 5-1 was able to sweep by 4-5 favorite Abel Tasman in the stretch, scoring by two lengths and giving trainer Jerry Hollendorfer his second Cotillion in a row. A 3-year-old daughter of Arch, It Tiz Well covered 1 1/16 miles over Parx' fast main track in 1:43.67.
Very satisfying,” said Dan Ward, assistant trainer to Jerry Hollendorfer. “She has been running good races and improving all the time. I thought we had a good chance. I thought we might get that trip. She did a super job.”
Van Dyke kept It Tiz Well just off the pacesetters down the backstretch, allowing the filly to maintain an easy, loping stride as he tracked the movements of the other riders. Lockdown had jumped out of the gates on top, and the favored Abel Tasman was very slow into stride, winding up near the rear of the field around the first turn.
After Lockdown covered the first quarter in 23 1/5 seconds, Smith seemed to feel the pace slow down a bit. He cued Abel Tasman to move up the rail, making up approximately eight lengths in less than a sixteenth of a mile. She was vying for the lead with Lockdown through fractions of 47 1/5 seconds and 1:11 1/5, leaving Van Dyke and It Tiz Well sitting pretty just behind the leading pair as Lockdown refused to let up on Abel Tasman.
:She ran today like she ran at Delaware Park [July 8, Delaware Oaks],” Van Dyke said. “Set off the pace and relaxed, and when I called upon her she responded. She was perfect. When I saw Mike [Smith aboard favorite Abel Tasman] coming up on the inside, and I sat off her and waited and they kind of went away from me for a few seconds and she was there for me the whole time.”
The battle was on down the lane as both jockeys asked their fillies to lay it on the line. A very game Abel Tasman, despite already running hard for more than a half-mile, hunkered down and fought off the challenge from Lockdown. But Van Dyke tipped wide aboard It Tiz Well at the head of the lane, and was just out of the line of sight of Abel Tasman when she rocketed to the lead.
To her credit, Abel Tasman tried to rise to the challenge and re-engage toward It Tiz Well, but the wire flashed ahead with It Tiz Well two lengths in front. Abel Tasman bested Lockdown for the place, and Mopotism got up for fourth.
“I didn't want to take it that soon,” Smith said. “I was hoping to get finish on the lead. She has been breaking slow of late than she wants to gather herself up and wants to catch up at one time, too much to do. I could have stayed way wide, but I would have been too wide and she still would have wanted to make that move and I would have been too wide, the inside is wide open and she was pulling me so hard and she just took me there and I thought maybe she could pull it off from here but it was too much to do. She'll be fine for the Breeders' Cup. It wasn't one of her best but she ran well.”
“She got real rank with him, she took off with him it, and it was unfortunate,” added Abel Tasman's trainer Bob Baffert. “It was a ridiculous run. We might have to take the blinkers off. I guess we just have to turn the page.”
Bred in Kentucky by Allen and Susan Branch, It Tiz Well commanded $230,000 as a yearling at the Keeneland September sale. She has since gone on to win a pair of Grade 3 races and was previously placed in two Grade 1 events, but the Cotillion is her first top-level score. Overall, It Tiz Well's record stands at 5-2-2 from 10 starts, with earnings of over $1.1 million.
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