Grade 1 heroine Abel Tasman takes on six rivals Saturday in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) under jockey Mike Smith.
The Santa Anita Oaks is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races and will award the respective top four finishers with 100-40-20-10 points toward a starting berth in the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Abel Tasman has already secured 30 points thanks to capturing last December’s Starlet Stakes (G1) and running second behind Unique Bella in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) while making her sophomore debut last out. She’s seen a lot of changes since then, being transferred from Simon Callaghan to Bob Baffert and getting a new rider in Smith after being piloted by Joe Talamo, but receives a break in this spot with division leader Unique Bella currently sidelined.
Also looking forward to not facing Unique Bella again is It Tiz Well. The Arch filly, who like Unique Bella is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, broke her maiden by 10 lengths in December at Los Alamitos, but was no match for her barnmate when 7 1/2 lengths behind in second when lining up in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) for her three-year-old bow. It Tiz Well blossomed away from her Unique Bella, easily capturing a Santa Anita allowance/optional claimer as well as the Honeybee Stakes (G3) at Oaklawn Park in her past two, and keeps Corey Nakatani aboard for this one.
Yet another Unique Bella survivor is Mopotism, who finished second by 8 3/4 lengths to that filly in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) on February 5. The Doug O’Neill pupil sandwiched the Las Virgenes between a maiden win and a three-quarter length victory in the Island Fashion Stakes most recently on February 26. Mario Gutierrez retains the mount on Mopotism, who also ran third to Abel Tasman in the Starlet.
Princess Karen had a run in with Unique Bella when finishing fourth by 12 lengths in the Santa Ynez after taking her maiden debut. The Jeff Bonde-trained daughter of Stay Thirsty has since returned to score an allowance/optional claiming victory and gets Gary Stevens in the irons for the first time.
Bernina Star, fourth in the China Doll Stakes; Paradise Woods, a 4 1/4-length maiden winner on March 11; and maiden Majestic Quality, second at 23-1 in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (G2) last out, complete the Santa Anita Oaks field.