Abel Tasman Stars For China Horse Club In The United States
Founded by Teo Ah Khing, the China Horse Club has become one of the most significant new international investors in bloodstock over the past five years, spending huge sums on racing and breeding stock in the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Styled as Asia’s premier lifestyle, business and thoroughbred racing club, the China Horse Club is a major player in Australia, often in partnership with leading studs, and its red and yellow racing colours are familiar to racegoers having been carried to stakes victories by Invader (Snitzel), Russian Revolution (Snitzel), First Seal (Fastnet Rock), Extreme Choice (Not A Single Doubt) and others.
These colours were also carried to glory last Sunday at the historic Saratoga track in upstate New York by outstanding three-year-old filly Abel Tasman (Quality Road) in the Coaching Club American Oaks (Gr 1, 9f), her fourth win at the highest level and third in succession in 2017.
Abel Tasman must now rank as the leading filly of her generation in North America as this win
closely followed her striking victories in the Kentucky Oaks (Gr 1, 9f) and the Acorn Stakes (Gr 1, 8f).
Last Sunday at Saratoga she again showed her great will to win but departed from her usual racing pattern of coming from behind with a powerful late sprint. This time, while well back early, jockey Mike Smith set her alight in the middle stages to sweep around the field to challenge Elate (Medaglia d’Oro) for the lead before the pair settled down for a stirring battle in the closing stages, with Abel Tasman prevailing by a head over Elate at the line with Salty (Quality Road) another three and a quarter lengths away in third place. Race time was 1:51.74.
Abel Tasman was bred in Kentucky by Clearsky Farms which raced her as a two-year-old for three wins in four starts, finishing the campaign last December with victory in the Starlet Stakes (Gr 1, 8f) at Los Alamitos in California.
Clearsky Farms had offered Abel Tasman at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale then
bought her back for US$65,000 but following her Starlet Stakes success accepted an offer from the China Horse Club to buy into the filly.
After her first start this year when second to Unique Bella (Tapit) in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (Gr 3, 8,5f), Abel Tasman had a change of trainer, moving from Simon Callaghan to the high profile Bob Baffert. She was then runner-up in the Santa Anita Oaks (Gr 1, 8.5f) before beginning her Grade One winning streak, her earnings now totalling US$1,467,060.
Breeders in our part of the world may not be familiar with Abel Tasman’s sire Quality Road (Elusive Quality) whose father spent six seasons at Darley’s farm in NSW, leaving champion Sepoy, Group One winner Camarilla and a number of other black type winners.
Elusive Quality (Gone West) is renowned internationally as the father of Smarty Jones, champion three-year-old colt of his generation in the United States turned sire, Breeders’ Cup Classic (Gr 1, 10f) winner and sire Raven’s Pass plus other Group/Grade One winners Elusive City (sire), Elusive Kate, Maryfield, Quality Road and Certify.
Quality Road, raced exclusively in the United States, was one of the finest performers by Elusive Quality, taking the Florida Derby (Gr 1, 9f) in track record time of 1:47.72 at three years before going on at four years to capture the Woodward Stakes (Gr 1, 9f), the Metropolitan Handicap (Gr 1, 8f) and the Donn Handicap (Gr 1, 9f) (by 12 and three quarter lengths in track record time of 1:47.49).
His oldest progeny are five-year-olds and also include Grade One winners Hootenanny, Klimt and Illuminant. A tall (16.3 hh) bay horse, Quality Road stands at a fee of US$35,000 at Lane’s End, Kentucky, and it is interesting to note he is out of a daughter of globetrotting Australian champion Strawberry Road (Whiskey Road).
Abel Tasman’s unplaced dam Vargas Girl (Deputy Minister) has also produced Sky Girl (Sky Mesa), a Grade Three winner in the United States, and three other winners from six foals to race.
Wheatly Way (Wheatly Hall), the second dam of Abel Tasman, was a Listed stakes winner in the
United States and dam of seven winners, most notable of them Bevo (Prospector’s Gamble), winner at two years of the Futurity Stakes (Gr 1, 6f), and Moonlight Sonata (Carson City), winner at two years of the Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes (Gr 3, 7f) and the female line traces back to influential producer Effie B (Bull Dog).
Abel Tasman carries a 4 x 5 double of Northern Dancer (Nearctic) through sons while her sire Quality Road has a 4 x 4 double of Raise a Native (Native Dancer), also through sons.
I am not sure how a filly comes to be given the name of a male, 15th century Dutch navigator and explorer but this filly is carrying Abel Tasman’s name with great distinction.