The 2017 season wasn’t perfect for China Horse Club International and Clearsky Farms’ Abel Tasman and her top-quality wins never seemed to inspire jaws to drop, but when her résumé is put up against others in her division, there is little argument about who was the best 3-year-old filly.
The magic of the daughter of Quality Road was her consistency, and that’s a significant reason she has earned the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old filly.
Overshadowed by the flashes of brilliance of Unique Bella in March (when Abel Tasman finished second in the grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes) and Paradise Woods in April (when Abel Tasman ran second in the grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks), Abel Tasman owned the 3-year-old filly races of top consequence in the middle months.
The Bob Baffert-trained bay closed from last to take a sloppy Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs, won the Acorn Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park in similar fashion, and then had an odd run in the Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) but was still able to leave Saratoga Race Course with a head victory over Elate.
"She's come through each and every time," Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said after the CCA Oaks. "She's had to travel three times now and that says a lot for her. To pick up from your home track, go to Churchill, go to Belmont with the big sandy track, and then come to Saratoga on opening weekend—it's very exciting for us."
A second-place run in the Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing and another in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) solidified her reputation as a filly that shows up with her "A" game every time she hits the racetrack, while other contenders in the division threw in a clunker or two.
"She ran her race. She just got beat by a really good horse," Baffert said of Abel Tasman after the Distaff, in which she came up a half-length shy of older star Forever Unbridled. "That was a tough race. She really ran her heart out and just came up a touch short."
After some early-season drama that saw her move from trainer Simon Callaghan to Baffert because of a supposed silks mix-up in the Santa Ysabel, the Clearsky-bred filly earned more than $1.7 million in 2017 and never finished worse than second in seven starts. Add the traveling aspects—her seven starts were at six different racetracks—and the season brightens even more.
Abel Tasman has nearly $2 million in lifetime earnings. Last year she received two first-place votes in the Eclipse Award voting for champion 2-year-old filly. She broke through for her first grade 1 with a score in the 2016 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos Race Course.