September 25, 2022

Paradise Woods inexperienced but a strong favorite in 14-horse Kentucky Oaks

Paradise Woods posts a smashing 11-length victory in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) on Saturday, April 8, 2017, with jockey Flavien Prat aboard ©Benoit Photo

Following an 11-length romp in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Paradise Woods has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite in Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs. The Richard Mandella-trained miss heads a field of 14 sophomore fillies in the 1 1/8-mile event known as the “Run for the Lilies.”

The Kentucky Oaks will mark the fourth career start for the daughter of Union Rags. Based in California, Paradise Woods finished second when making her first appearance in late January and came back six weeks later to graduate by 4 ¼ lengths. Stretching out to two turns for the Santa Anita Oaks, the bay lass led gate-to-wire and registered a sensational 110 BRIS Speed Rating, a figure towers over her Kentucky Oaks rivals.

Despite showing high speed last time, Paradise Woods proved she is more than comfortable rating when rallying from fifth in her maiden win. And in a speed-filled Kentucky Oaks field, the bay filly figures to revert to stalking tactics with regular rider Flavien Prat.

Unbeaten from two starts this year, Miss Sky Warrior will put a five-race winning skein on the line as the early 9-2 second choice. The Kelly Breen trainee broke her maiden at Parx the second time out last October and completed her juvenile season with back-to-back tallies in the Tempted (G3) and Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct.

She opened 2017 with a half-length tally in the Davona Dale (G2) at Gulfstream Park in early March and Miss Sky Warrior exits a 13-length whitewashing in the April 8 Gazelle (G2) at Aqueduct. Paco Lopez retains the mount on the speedy First Samurai filly.

Abel Tasman and Farrell come next on the morning line at 5-1.

A Grade 1-winning juvenile, Abel Tasman opened the year with a pair of seconds in the Santa Ysabel (G3) and Santa Anita Oaks. She has Hall of Fame connections – trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Mike Smith – but must overcome post 13.

Farrell likes Churchill, posting a six-length victory in the Golden Rod (G2) last November, and returns in good form for Wayne Catalano after posting convincing wins in the Silverbulletday, Rachel Alexandra (G2) and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) to open her 3-year-old campaign. She will show speed with jockey Channing Hill.

At 6-1, Gulfstream Park Oaks (G2) heroine Salty is the only other runner at single-digit odds on the morning line. She’s won two straight for Mark Casse, breaking her maiden the second time out on March 5, and the confirmed closer is eligible to benefit from an abundance of pace. Joel Rosario keeps the assignment.

Ever So Clever exit an upset win in the Fantasy (G3) at Oaklawn and is listed at 20-1 along with Daddy’s Lil Darling, Lockdown, Mopotism, Tequilita and Vexatious. A trio of 30-1 outsiders, Jordan’s Henny, Sailor’s Valentine and Wicked Lick, complete the field.

2017 Kentucky Oaks field: