Abel Tasman beaten at 1-10 as Vale Dori springs Zenyatta Stakes surprise
Santa Anita: Zenyatta Stakes (Grade 1) | 1m½f| dirt| 3yo+ fillies and mares
There was a huge shock in the Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita when 1-10 shot Abel Tasman could finish only fifth behind Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Vale Dori in the $300,000 contest.
Abel Tasman and jockey Mike Smith's problems began at the gate. While Vale Dori broke alertly, Abel Tasman broke slowly and was ten lengths behind the pacesetter Shenandoah Queen as they went through the first quarter.
The six-time Grade 1 winner advanced a bit in the backstretch, but it became clear on the turn for home that she would not be winning.
Baffert said: "I'm about as shocked as everybody else, but they'll do that. Vale Dori had been working well, but she hadn't been getting away from the gate, and if she doesn't get away well, she doesn't run well.
"When I saw Abel break horribly like that, it looked like shades of Arrogate at Del Mar [in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap in 2017] . . . that's not the Abel that we know.
"She's never run a bad one . . . my main concern is that Abel is okay and not getting sick on me."
Smith suggested illness was a possible reason for the poor performance – stablemate Mother Mother was scratched from the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes because she came down with a cough.
Smith said: "There's a bit of a flu going around with some of these horses, so hopefully it's not hitting her, but it certainly could have.
"She kind of made a middle move down the backside to get herself into some sort of position to maybe make a run, and I thought she could probably still win anyway. But then she just decided that was enough."
As her stablemate toiled, Vale Dori, who stalked the leader, took command on the turn for home and held off a late run from La Force to win by three-quarters of a length under Joe Talamo.
"She was laying perfect, right off Shenandoah Queen, and I had a lot of horse around the turn. I was just biding my time, just waiting for anyone to come before I let her loose, and when I did, she really took off very nicely," said Talamo.
"I really thought Abel Tasman was going to come running, but that's horse racing for you."
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