Fresh off a pair of Grade I victories in New York, Bob Baffert's superstar 4-year-old filly Abel Tasman returns to Santa Anita on Sunday and looms a complete standout versus five other distaffers aged three and up in the Grade I, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.
Named for the legendary 2010 Horse of the Year, Zenyatta won the race's precursor, the Ladies Secret Stakes, over three consecutive years from 2008-10. The Zenyatta Stakes winner will earn a fees-paid berth into the Grade I Breeders' Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
||La Force (GER)
||Drayden Van Dyke
||Vale Dori (ARG)
A six-time Grade I winner, Abel Tasman was a disappointing fourth as the 3-5 favorite in her seasonal debut May 4, in the Grade I La Troiene Stakes at Churchill Downs, but she bounced back with a smashing 7 ½ length win in the Grade I Ogden Phipps Stakes June 9 at Belmont Park and was most recently a neck victor in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga on Aug. 25.
Abel Tasman's stablemate, Group and Grade I winner Vale Dori and German-bred La Force, who exits a pair of second place finishes in Grade I competition, will hope to make a race of it on Sunday.
Brilliant by any accounting, this Kentucky-bred daughter of Quality Road, out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl, earned a career-best Beyer Speed figure of 105 in her most recent start and is at the top of her game with Mike Smith set to ride her back. Blessed with an abundance of tactical speed, she figures to make short work of her competition as she embarks upon her 15th career start.
With eight wins and four second place finishes, she has earnings of $2,787,385.
Owner: China Horse Club International, Ltd. and Clearsky Farms | Trainer: Bob Baffert
A Group I winner in her native Argentina at age three, this 6-year-old mare has been winless in six starts since winning the Grade III Adoration Stakes here in May, 2017. A winner of the Grade I Santa Margarita on March 18, 2017, Vale Dori has a good measure class but will be hard pressed to keep her stablemate company, evidenced by their six furlong team drill here on Sept. 18.
Although they finished in virtual "heads-up" fashion, it was readily apparent that Abel Tasman was going the better of the two. With five wins from 10 starts at Santa Anita, Vale Dori is 20-9-6-2 overall with earnings of $1,185,567.
Owner: Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum | Trainer: Bob Baffert
A sharp second behind recently retired multiple Eclipse Award winner Unique Bella in the Grade I Clement Hirsch Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Del Mar July 29, this 4-year-old German-bred filly is having by far the best year of her career, as she's banked $227,600 from six starts in 2018.
While she remains in search of her first graded win, she'll hope to be a late threat from off the pace under Drayden Van Dyke, who's been aboard for her last three starts, including a second place run behind Unique Bella in the Grade I Beholder Mile here on June 2. With an overall mark of 21-2-6-4, she has earnings of $310,800.
Owner: Roberta Williford, Ward Williford and Charles Winner | Trainer: Paddy Gallagher