LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Even in times of reduced circumstances for the white-haired trainer, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert reached the winner's circle at Churchill Downs.
Baffert won his third Kentucky Oaks Friday, 3-year-old filly Abel Tasman prevailing by a length and a quarter after a last-to-first move by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Quality Road's daughter was 10th midway on the final turn but came rolling into the stretch despite parked wide.
Abel Tasman raced in blinkers Friday after finishing a distant second to Paradise Woods in the Santa Anita Oaks. "She'd run for a sixteenth of a mile and then lose focus," Smith said. "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."
Abel Tasman joins Silverbulletday (1999) and Plum Pretty (2011) as Oaks winners trained by Baffert, a four-time winner of the Kentucky Derby but missing the race today for only the second time in 11 years.
"It's just exciting to win the Kentucky Oaks," Baffert said. "Doing that when everyone is watching makes it better. I'm so happy for (owners) 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."
Paradise Woods, the 6-5 favorite, and Miss Sky Warrior had nothing left after dueling through six furlongs in 1:11.42. Paradise Woods finished 11th of 14, prompting Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella to say, "That big race at Santa Anita might have taken a little too much out of her."
Abel Tasman paid $20.40, $9.20 and $6.40, her nine furlongs in 1:51.62 over a sloppy track before an Oaks Day crowd of 105,100. Daddys Lil Darling, Lockdown and Vexatious completed a $1 superfecta worth more than $85,000. Vexatious finished third in Oaklawn Park's Grade 3 Fantasy, winner Ever So Clever running ninth in the Oaks.
Smith's previous Oaks victory came in 2013 with Princess of Sylmar.
"If you surround yourself with good people, good things happen," Smith said. "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."Sports on 05/06/2017
Print Headline: Baffert filly wins Oaks by surprise