Teo Ah Khing of China Horse Club (right) leads Abel Tasman and Mike Smith into the winner's circle at Belmont Park

Teo Ah Khing of China Horse Club (right) leads Abel Tasman and Mike Smith into the winner's circle at Belmont Park

Skip Dickstein

Abel Tasman Runs Off to Ogden Phipps Victory

The Quality Road filly scored her fifth grade 1 win.

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has learned not to fight with Abel Tasman. When China Horse Club and Clearsky Farms' 4-year-old Quality Road  filly wants to run, he lets her run.

Her victory in the $750,000 Ogden Phipps Stakes (G1) was the most recent example.

As she's done plenty of times before (and it doesn't always work), Abel Tasman ran up to the lead wide in the backstretch—around a trio of horses vying for the lead—after she stalked the pace early in the 1 1/16-mile Phipps.

"You know her," Smith said. "She does that every time. She gets away slow, and then she makes that big middle move. Sometimes it's better to let her do it, if they're going slow. If they're going fast and she does it, that's when I've gotten myself in trouble, and that's happened before. But they were going easy enough that it was OK."

With clear command in the Belmont Park turn, the Bob Baffert trainee powered away from an overmatched field to win by 7 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:40.36 to collect her fifth grade 1. Ivy Bell finished second and Unbridled Mo came in third, another 1 3/4 lengths back.

Ivy Bell held a one-length lead through a first quarter in :23.58. Unchained Melody stalked in second, and Abel Tasman raced in third, but by the time the half went in :46.36, it was Abel Tasman who was a length in front. She maintained her advantage through six furlongs in 1:10.05, increased it to two lengths in the stretch, then burst away to the wire.

"(Ivy Bell) made what initially appeared to be an easy lead, and then Abel Tasman put in that big run down the backside, so (jockey) Javier (Castellano) just sat patiently on her," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Ivy Bell and Unbridled Mo. "She kept on pretty well, and I thought it was a pretty good performance. She was second best on the day."

Abel Tasman began her season with a flat fourth-place finish in the May 4 La Troienne Stakes Presented by Twinspires.com (G1) at Churchill Downs.

"Her race at Churchill Downs was a disappointment," Baffert said. "She didn't run well. You could tell today the light got turned on. We got (her) back to California, and she trained aggressively again. She couldn't have looked better coming into this race. She had been working with Hoppertunity, and hopefully he'll run good today (as well)."

(Hoppertunity did just that, winning the grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes later on the Saturday card).

Pacific Wind, who loomed behind Abel Tasman in the turn, appeared to be the lone challenger turning for home, but she tired in the stretch and finished fourth. Unchained Melody and Berned completed the order of finish.

Bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl, Abel Tasman has a 7-4-0 record from 13 starts and more than $2.4 million in earnings.

"I'm so proud of her," Baffert said. "She's one of my favorite all-time horses."

Video: Ogden Phipps S. (G1)