06/10/2017 2:24PM

Abel Tasman gives Baffert, Smith another stakes win in Acorn

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Ronnie Betor
Abel Tasman, ridden by Mike Smith, takes the Acorn Stakes by one length.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Bob Baffert continued his dominance of the early portion of Saturday’s Belmont Stakes card when Abel Tasman won the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes impressively by one length over Salty. The win came about an hour after Baffert sent out West Coast to a one-sided victory in the Easy Goer Stakes.

“Big Day Bob,” Baffert joked in the winner’s circle. “I like bringing good horses for the good races. Not 10-1 shots. I want to bring the favorites; there’s room for error.”

Jockey Mike Smith made no mistakes with Abel Tasman, driving the Kentucky Oaks winner to the front inside the tiring leaders entering the stretch, moving clear near midstretch and maintaining a safe advantage over Salty. Smith also was aboard for West Coast's win.

Salty, who had finished fifth, four lengths behind Abel Tasman, in the Oaks, raced wide while within striking distance from the outset, digging in gamely down the lane but proving no match for the winner while easily second-best.

Benner Island, who pressed the early pace three wide, finished third. She was followed by Sweet Loretta, who stumbled at the start, Union Strike, Nikki My Darling, and Florida Fabulous.

Abel Tasman, owned in partnership by the China Horse Club International and Clearsky Farms, completed a mile in 1:35.37 and paid $6.30 as a slight favorite over Salty.

“After the first one [West Coast], I said, ‘At least no doughnuts,’ ” said Baffert. “There’s nothing worse than going somewhere with the favorite and getting the doughnut. This filly here, she’s really getting good, and she showed the last one [the Kentucky Oaks] was no fluke. I did not like the post. She doesn’t really want to be inside, so this is a pretty good sign of the quality she has. She just keeps getting better and better.”

Baffert said the Grade 1 Alabama on Aug. 19 at Saratoga “is definitely in the works for her.”

Trainer Mark Casse said he was proud of Salty.

“I thought we had the horses in front, which was good,” said Casse. “I was wanting her to have a target. Then it all went boom! It was too big a target. She’s [Salty] a really nice filly. She ran her butt off. What are you going to do?”