SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – For the second straight year, Abel Tasman outdueled familiar foe Elate in the Saratoga stretch and survived a jockey’s objection to be named the victor in Saturday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Personal Ensign Stakes.
The Personal Ensign is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Abel Tasman receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Distaff at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3.
Breaking without incident from the rail as the 3/5 favorite under Mike Smith, Abel Tasman settled in mid-pack along the rail while Farrell crossed over and held a momentary lead before She Takes Heart quickly took that from her in the first turn. The 50/1 longshot set opening splits of :23.31 and :46.62 down the backside before Abel Tasman tipped out and moved up to take the lead. Heading into the far turn still under a hold, Abel Tasman began pulling away, but Elate was making her bid along the rail behind her.
Tipped out at the top of the stretch, Elate and jockey Jose Ortiz engaged Abel Tasman for a battle reminiscent of last year’s Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks, though this time, Ortiz knew to stay to Abel Tasman’s outside. Heads apart with each step that they took, Elate began drifting out slightly in mid-stretch, causing Ortiz to go to the right-handed whip. In doing so, Elate came back down, which caused her to bump with Abel Tasman. Regaining her footing without losing much stride, Abel Tasman was able to cross the finish line first by less than a length in a final time of 1:47.19 for the 9-furlong main track event.
“What a gallant race she ran today,” Smith said. “It was a really big race.”
Ortiz signaled for an objection as he crossed the finish line aboard Elate, but after a short review, the stewards ruled that there would be no change to the original order of finish.
“Down the stretch, we came together,” Smith said. “(That was) the reason for the foul, but we didn’t knock each other outside. We just came together nice and easy, and then after that, we actually did the same thing again when she came (over). It didn’t cost either filly anything and the best filly won today.”
Ortiz was understandably unhappy with the end result.
“I think (Abel Tasman) should have come down, 100%,” Ortiz said. “I think (Elate) ran a great race. Both fillies did, but, c’mon. Last year (Smith) bumped me, this year he bumped me again, and I should have won both of them.”
Several lengths behind, Wow Cat took third ahead of Fuhriously Kissed, while Farrell and She Takes Heart faded and completed the short field’s order of finish.
Abel Tasman’s win was her second straight in 2018, following her victory in June’s Grade 1 Ogden Phipps Stakes at Belmont Park, and increased her overall record to 14-8-4-0. The Bob Baffert-trained 4-year-old daughter of Quality Road increased her lifetime bankroll to $2,787,385 for co-owners China Horse Club International and Clearsky Farms, the latter also her breeder.
“She’s just phenomenal,” Baffert said. “She’s just getting better with age and she’s brought us so much satisfaction. I could have easily run her at Del Mar, but I wanted to come to Saratoga. It doesn’t get any bigger than this, when you can win here in front of all these people on Travers Day.”
Abel Tasman returned $3.50 to win, $2.30 to place, and $2.10 to show. Elate brought back $2.80 to place and $2.10 to show, while Wow Cat paid $2.40 to show.