Paradise Woods was just one more impressive maiden in trainer Richard Mandella’s barn prior to Saturday. Now, the bay daughter of Union Rags is a record-setting winner of the $400,690 Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and could be headed to the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs.
Paradise Woods was never challenged in the Santa Anita Oaks, grabbing command soon after the start and pulling off to be 11 3/4 lengths clear on the wire of the 1 1/16-mile contest. Her margin of victory established a new record, surpassing the previous 10 1/2-length record set by Silver Spoon in 1959.
Campaigned by Martin and Pam Wygod and Steven Sarkowsky, Paradise Woods stopped the clock in 1:42.53, returning $18.20 for the win as the 8-1 third choice under jockey Flavien Prat.
She also earned 100 points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Oaks. The Santa Anita Oaks is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races and awarded 100-40-20-10 points to the respective top four finishers.
Abel Tasman, the 4-5 favorite, didn’t have the best of trips in the Santa Anita Oaks but was still best of the rest. The Quality Road filly finished 2 1/4 lengths up on It TIz Well, the 2-1 second choice who just held third by a nose over Mopotism. Majestic Quality, Bernina Star and Princess Karen completed the order under the wire.
Paradise Woods dropped her initial start when second on January 26 at Santa Anita, but came back March 11 to post a 4 1/4-length victory. She was making her stakes bow in this spot and improved her career line to read 3-2-1-0, $283,200.
Bred in Kentucky by Herman Sarkowsky, Paradise Woods is out of the unraced Forest Wildcat mare Wild Forest, making her a half-sister to stakes winner Forest Chatter. Wild Forest is herself a half-sister to Grade/Group 3 hero Tajaaweed.
Paradise Woods’ second dam, Uforia, is a half-sibling to multiple Grade 3-scoring top sire Mr. Greeley. Her fourth dam is French champion and multiple Group 1 queen Lianga, and this female line is also responsible for multiple Group 1 hero and successful sire Danehill Dancer.
SANTA ANITA OAKS QUOTES
Flavien Prat, jockey Paradise Woods, winner
“I’ve always been high on her. From the first time I worked her, I said, ‘That one is really good.’ She ran well her first time out (second in a six furlong maiden special weight on January 26) but I was expecting so much more that I was almost disappointed. But I think that I was just expecting too much from her.
“The next time out, she won like a good filly. She’s so smart. If you teach her something she remembers it the next day; it sticks. She’s super small, she’s fast and she has stamina. She’s so good.
“I learned she can make the distance, no problem. It’s an honor to rider her, truly.
“Down the backside it was all her, I didn’t do anything. I just let her have her way.”
Richard Mandella, trainer Paradise Woods, winner
“She looked like she was just cruising out there. At the half-mile pole, she was going easy. She took my breath away. It means a lot to win for (breeder Herman) Sarkowsky. He was an owner with me for 38 years.
“I have always been high on her. I wasn’t that confident, but I fully expected her to run well. I didn’t think she would do this.
“I was thinking of running her short tomorrow in the Santa Paula, but when Unique Bella scratched, I thought we should take a shot. I thought she was as good as these fillies and she showed it today. She is a young filly. She has only had three starts, so we’ll see about the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and how things develop. She was really nasty to saddle today, but she ran great.”
Mike Smith, jockey Abel Tasman, second
“You know, (trainer Richard) Mandella’s horse really just blew the field away. She just broke, they call it ‘speed popin’ the field’ sometimes. She broke and was gone. I made sure we got second. There was no catching the winner. And that was good enough for today.
“We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board, make a couple of changes, tweak this and tweak that a little and see if we can turn the page in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). Today, it was all Mandella. No one was beating that horse. She’s still learning, maybe a few little things we could do that would certainly make her better. So, we’ve got room to play with. We lost the battle but the big one’s yet to come. She was just gone.”
Bob Baffert, trainer Abel Tasman, second
“She was back there, and you have to be up close to the lead. I think Mike Smith got a feel for her today. Now I’ve got a race into her, and I know what I need to do to sharpen her up. She’ll move forward off that – still the Kentucky Oaks.”