2017 Kentucky Oaks Recap

Abel Tasman wins the Kentucky Oaks (TwinSpires Photo)

Heading into Friday’s 143rd annual running of the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1), Paradise Woods was tabbed the filly to be beat by odds makers and industry insiders.

Paradise Woods was set up with morning line odds of 5–2 (6–5 live odds closer to the start of the race). However, as we have come to expect from years of experience, anything can and usually does happen on the race track, and it just wasn’t meant to be for Paradise Woods and trainer Richard Mandella.

Instead, all the glory went to Abel Tasman and her Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Abel Tasman’s morning line odds were a tempting 5–1, but fell to 9–1 near the start of the race. Coming into the Kentucky Oaks she was on fire though, winning the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos Thoroughbred last December and finishing second in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) and the Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

Riding under the experience and guidance of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, Abel Tasman rallied on the outside during the stretch to claim a 1 1/4-length win on the muddy Churchill Downs track.

Daddys Lil Darling finished second and Lockdown was third. Pre-race favourite Paradise Woods finished a disappointing 11th.

Early on it seemed Paradise Woods and Miss Sky Warrior were destined to battle to see who would cross the finish line first, as they were neck-and-neck at the start to set the pace, but Abel Tasman kicked things into hyperdrive mode from the back of the pack in the stretch and secured Baffert his third career Oaks win (1999 — Siverbulletday, 2011 — Plum Pretty). Baffert didn’t earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby (G1), so this will mark his biggest win of the weekend and he now might also have a contender in the next two Triple Crown races.

Abel Tasman paid $20.40, $9.20, and $6.40 for the win. Daddys Lil Darling paid $11.60 and $6.60, while Lockdown returned $18.40 to show. The Oaks victory was Abel Tasman’s fourth in seven starts. She was bred at Clearsky Farms in Kentucky and is from Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl.

by Salvatore Stefanile