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Owner Ah Khing Teo of China Horse Club leads Abel Tasman and jockey Mike Smith to the winner's circle after the winning the Oaks.
The $1,000,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) at 1 1/8 miles is the premier race in the country for 3-year-old fillies, and is the female counterpart to the Kentucky Derby. A full field of 14 faced the starter in the 143rd renewal of this 1 1/8 mile main track feature at Churchill Downs, run on Friday before 105,100 fans who braved the unusually damp and cold conditions. Steady rain fell all day downgrading the track to sloppy, with a post time temperature of 49 degrees accompanied by 20 MPH wind gusts. Paradise Woods was sent off as the 6-5 favorite off her 11 3/4 length win in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1). In to challenge her included 9-2 second choice Farrell, winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2), and 13-2 third choice Miss Sky Warrior, winner of the Gazelle (G2) by 13 lengths.
Abel Tasman leads in the stretch in the Kentucky Oaks.
There were five other stakes races on the card with the Oaks. Full results for all of them with more photos are here.
Pgm Horse Jockey Win Place Show 13 Abel Tasman Smith 20.40 9.20 6.40 12 Daddys Lil Darling Leparoux 11.00 6.60 2 Lockdown Ortiz 18.40 Winning Time: 1:51.62 $2 Exacta 13-12 203.00 $2 Trifecta 13-12-2 5,727.60 $1 Superfecta 13-12-2-6 85,555.10
Left: Abel Tasman heads to the winner's circle. "It's just exciting to win the Kentucky Oaks. We'd like to have a horse in the Derby but I'm so happy for the China Horse Club. They trusted me with the filly. And ‘Big Money' Mike (Smith), what can you say? Incredible ride. We knew she was doing really well coming into this race. We got a nice, hot pace and it worked out. They were going pretty fast but I have a lot of respect for Paradise Woods and she was getting a lot of pressure. About the three-eighths pole he started moving and I thought we might have a shot. She's a beautiful filly to train. She shipped beautifully and we knew we had a chance."
Right: Abel Tasman heads back to the barn after the race. Winning owner Ah Khing Teo explained that China Horse Club consists of 100 investors who put up $1 million each. He said, "We hope today's race, which is very significant, will put the geographical location and the significance of the Kentucky Oaks in the minds of the Chinese. To be able to win a very significant race here, especially in Churchill Downs, I think that says lots about the team. They have to put their money where their mouth is." Since gambling is illegal in China, the club profits by investing in stallions and actvely racing thoroughbreds.
Left: Abel Tasman heads into the paddock before the race. China Horse Club's racing and bloodstock manager Mike Wallace added, "We're obviously on the biggest stage here, and to win a classic like this is what we're trying to achieve. This will carry a great weight through China and worldwide."
Right: Abel Tasman in the post parade. Winning jockey Mike Smith said, "Immediately after her second-place finish in the Santa Anita Oaks, we (Smith and Baffert) both realized she probably needed a slight blinker. She broke OK that day, but was not 100 percent focused. She'd run for 1/16 mile and then lose focus. The blinkers kept her from doing that today. I hit the front a little sooner than I wanted and I was afraid she'd pull herself up, but she stayed focused and galloped out even better. If you surround yourself with good people, good things happen. It's just like your mom always told you. I surround myself with Bob Baffert and other great trainers and owners and this is the outcome."
Left: Second place finisher Daddys Lil Darling back in 11th first time by. Trainer Ken McPeek said, "I like winning races, but she ran fantastic." Jockey Julien Leparoux added, "I wanted a wait a little bit to get inside. She ran a big race."
Right: Third place finisher Lockdown in the post parade. Trainer Bill Mott said, "I'm really pleased. We came in a bit of an underdog and she really ran well. She was maybe 8 lengths back. I lost her a bit going into the first turn, you know, we've got pink colors and there was so much pink I was getting distracted." Jockey Jose Ortiz added, "I had a good position going into the first turn. I was just looking for a way to get to the rail since it's been so good today. She gave me a good run."
Left: Beaten favorite and 11th place finisher Paradise Woods returns to be unsaddled. Trainer Richard Mandella said, "What are you going to do? That big race at Santa Anita (the Santa Anita Oaks) might have taken a little too much out of her." Jockey Flavien Prat said, "She didn't break super sharp. She just wasn't herself today. She never ran on a sloppy track before and she didn't run good today so maybe that had something to do with it."
Right: Mud flies as the entire field rounds the clubhouse turn with eventual winner Abel Tasman (red silks in center) dead last trailing by 14 1/4 lengths. Joel Rosario aboard eventual 5th place finisher Salty (pink silks on far outside) said, "She liked the track and ran well. We took a chance to go along the inside and got stopped a little a couple of times. She was running in the end. It was just a different track today. The winner was much the best. If I didn't get stopped on the turn and turning for home, we could have run better but that's how it goes sometimes."
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