February 21, 2024

Abel Tasman seeks Grade 1 grand slam in $1 million Cotillion

Abel Tasman rallied boldly to post a 1 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 5, 2017 @CoadyPhoto

She’s won three consecutive Grade 1 races and sits firmly atop the three-year-old filly division, but Abel Tasman‘s long-known plan of targeting the $1 million Cotillion (G1) did not dissuade the connections of 11 others to drop their name in the entry box against the Bob Baffert trainee in Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile test at Parx Racing.

Abel Tasman was installed the 8-5 morning line favorite and drew post 11, not that much of a detriment given her late-closing tendencies and the possibility of some late withdrawals. After two early-season seconds behind Unique Bella and Paradise Woods, Abel Tasman has reeled off three straight, top-level victories in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), Acorn (G1), and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1). A fourth in the Cotillion could make her almost impossible to depose for championship honors regardless of what might happen in the Breeders’ Cup.

Elate, runaway winner of the Alabama (G1), was not entered, but the form of that race will be on trial with the second and third, It Tiz Well and Salty, taking their chance. Only a couple of lengths behind Abel Tasman in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) in their lone meeting this year, It Tiz Well has wins in the Honeybee (G3) and Delaware Oaks (G3) and edged Salty by a head for the place in Saratoga’s ancient 1 1/4-mile feature last time.

Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) winner Salty finished behind Abel Tasman in all three of the latter’s Grade 1 scores prior to the Alabama. Like the favorite, she tends to do her best running late, and drew post 12 for trainer Mark Casse.

Drawing inside posts for the Cotillion  were Black-Eyed Susan (G2) heroine Actress (post 2), third in the Delaware Oaks and fourth in the Alabama in her last two, and Lockdown (post 1), who placed in the Gazelle (G2), Kentucky Oaks (G1), and Mother Goose (G2) prior to a disappointing sixth in the same 1 1/4-mile fixture won by fellow Bill Mott stablemate Elate.

Another Alabama entrant, seventh-place finisher Mopotism, has placed in the Las Virgenes (G2), Summertime Oaks (G2), and Indiana Oaks (G3), but otherwise seems a cut below. Proud and Fearless, a close second to It Tiz Well in the Delaware Oaks, was a nondescript sixth in the Monmouth Oaks (G3) won by Teresa Z over Sine Wave.

Owner Mike Repole and trainer Todd Pletcher entered three fillies — Thirstforthecup, Stay Fond, and Run and Go — while naming John Velazquez on all of them, which suggests only one might start.

The $300,000 Gallant Bob (G3), a six-furlong dash for three-year-olds, has attracted a solid group, including the Amsterdam (G2) one-two Coal Front and Excitations. Coal Front, coupled with four-length Saratoga allowance winner Petrov, will attempt to rebound from a fifth-place effort to Practical Joke in the H. Allen Jerkens (G1).

Other potential contenders include American Pastime and Running Mate, recent Del Mar and Delaware Park allowance winners, respectively.