A field of six is set to battle in this year’s running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita Park. The race serves as a Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” event for the Longines Distaff on November 3 at Churchill Downs. There is no doubting who everyone will be excited to see coming into this race. Abel Tasman’s back to back victories headline this field. She finished second in the 2017 Longines Distaff, then later won 3-Year-Old Filly of the Year honors at the Eclipse Awards. This year, she has earned Grade 1 victories in the Ogden Phipps Stakes and the Personal Ensign Stakes, the latter of which came against the powerful Elate. Mike Smith will once again ride Abel Tasman when she breaks from post 2.
The winner of the Zenyatta Stakes will receive an automatic position in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based internationally.
The Grade 1 Zenyatta Stakes wraps up this week’s Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” action. The North American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events return on Friday, October 5 at Keeneland, and continue through the weekend at Keeneland, Belmont, and Santa Anita.
The full field from the rail out includes: Shenandoah Queen, Able Tasman, La Force, Vale Dori, Lemoona, and Fool’s Paradise.
#2 Abel Tasman – Since moving to the barn of Bob Baffert, this filly has been very tough to beat. Last year, she won three Grade 1 races, including the Kentucky Oaks, while also finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff. This year, she has picked up two more Grade 1 victories and has another in her sights. As of now, she is the strong favorite to win this year’s Longines Distaff.
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#3 La Force –This filly must be happy that Unique Bella retired. She has finished second in back-to-back Grade 1 events when matched against that super filly, but now she gets another shot at Grade 1 company, with Abel Tasman replacing Unique Bella as the formidable foe. This filly likes to drop to the back of the pack early in the race. If she can repeat her last two efforts, then expect her to come running late.
#1 Shenandoah Queen – Her last race was a head-turner, and that makes her interesting in this spot. That start came in the $75,000 Tranquility Lake Stakes at Del Mar, where she defeated her rivals by 8 1/2 lengths under a hand ride. That type of win earned her a shot in this race. The jump up in class is not going to be easy, but she has faced this sort of company in the past.
#4 Vale Dori – Last year, this horse was running as well as anyone in the country, winning four graded stakes in a row. She rounded out 2017 with a pair of close runner-up efforts to Stellar Wind, which also shows that she was in top form. However, this year has been a complete struggled, with four straight losses. Baffert keeps sending her out there, which means that he still has faith in her, so it’s time for her to show her best race. Her recent workouts have been solid.
#6 Fool’s Paradise – This filly moves back to the dirt after trying turf last time out in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oakswhere she finished eighth by 7 lengths. On the dirt, she has a maiden and an allowance win along with finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Summertime Oakstwo starts back.
#5 Lemoona – After breaking her maiden for trainer Bill Mott in December, this filly was moved to the barn of Richard Baltas with the idea of a west coast campaign in mind. That campaign started off well, with a win two races back against allowance foes at Del Mar. After that win, she tested her talents in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes, where she finished a distant fifth. This will be her second start against stakes company.