170 KENTUCKY OAKS POINTS AT STAKE, WITH 100 AWARDED TO THE WINNER
ARCADIA, Calif. (April 8, 2017)–A maiden winner in her second start going 5 ½ furlongs on March 11, Paradise Woods shot for the moon and found Mars on Saturday at Santa Anita, taking the 78th running of the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks by a record 11 ¾ lengths in gate to wire fashion under Flavien Prat. Trained by Richard Mandella, the Union Rags filly got a mile and one sixteenth in 1:42.53.
With 100 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points in-hand, it’s on to America’s most prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies on May 5 at Churchill Downs as Paradise Woods eclipsed a 58-year-old mark established by Hall of Famer Silver Spoon, who took the 1959 Santa Susana (later re-named Santa Anita Oaks) by 10 ½ lengths under Ray York for Hall of Fame conditioner R.L. Wheeler.
“I’ve always been high on her,” said Prat. “From the first time that I worked her, I said ‘That one is really good.’ She ran well her first time out, but I was expecting so much more that I was almost disappointed…
“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…It’s an honor to ride her, truly. Down the backside it was all her, I didn’t do anything. I just let her have her way.”
Off at 8-1 in a field of seven 3-year-old fillies, Paradise Woods paid $18.20, $6.00 and $3.60. Bred in Kentucky by the late Herman Sarkowsky and owned by Steven Sarkowsky and Pam and Martin Wygod, Paradise Woods is now two for three. With the winner’s share of $240,000, she increased her earnings to $283,200.
“She looked like she was just cruising out there,” said Mandella. “At the half mile pole, she was going easy. She took my breath away. It means a lot to win for (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 good. I didn’t think she would do this.
“She has only had three starts, so we’ll see about the Kentucky Oaks and how things develop. She was really nasty to saddle today, but she ran great.”
Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Bob Baffert, Abel Tasman was last around the far turn, swung six-wide for home, but at that point the Oaks was over as she finished 2 ¼ lengths in front of It Tiz Well, thus picking up 40 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points. Off at 4-5, Abel Tasman paid $2.80 and $2.10.
“There was no catching the winner,” said Smith. “And that was good enough for today. We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board, make a couple of changes…and see if we can run in the Kentucky Oaks.”
Baffert concurred, saying “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.”
Ridden by Corey Nakatani, It Tiz Well was the second choice at 2-1 and paid $2.20 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.46, 47.35, 1:11.48 and 1:36.07.
Note: In addition to the 100 points awarded to the winner and 40 to the runner-up, 20 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points went to the third place finisher and 10 went to Mopotism, who ran fourth.