SANTA ANITA OAKS RUNNER-UP ABEL TASMAN IS INSTALLED AT 5-1 IN A FIELD OF 14
ARCADIA, Calif. (May 2, 2017)–Fresh off a record breaking performance in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 8, Richard Mandella’s Paradise Woods has been installed as the 5-2 favorite in Friday’s Grade I, $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks, America’s most prestigious race for 3-year-old fillies. The mile and one eighth Oaks, which has been run continuously since 1875, will be contested for the 143rd time.
In only her third career start, Paradise Woods made her stakes debut in the Santa Anita Oaks and responded with a breath-taking 11 ¾ length win, which was accomplished in gate to wire fashion under Santa Anita Winter Meet leading rider, Flavien Prat. The margin of victory eclipsed a 58-year-old mark established by C.V. Whitney’s homebred 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.
Joining Paradise Woods, who drew post position number four among a field of 14 are Santa Anita Oaks runner-up Abel Tasman (post 13), who is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden back by Mike Smith, and Santa Anita Oaks fourth-place finisher, longshot Mopotism (post three), who is trained by Doug O’Neill and will again be handled by Mario Gutierrez. (Abel Tasman is listed as the co-third choice on Friday’s morning line at 5-1, while Mopotism is 20-1).
Should any of the three Santa Anita Oaks graduates win the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, they would join an illustrious group of 15 Southern California-based fillies, dating back to Wheeler’s Bug Brush in 1958 through Jerry Hollendorfer’s Blind Luck in 2010, to win the iconic race staged annually the day before the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.
Following a 4 ½ length maiden tally here going 5 ½ furlongs on March 2, Paradise Woods, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Union Rags who was bred by longtime Mandella client, the late Herman Sarkowsky, readily adapted to the mile and on sixteenth Santa Anita Oaks, as she rattled off seemingly effortless fractions of 23.46, 47.35, 1:11.48 and 1:36.07 en route to a final clocking of 1:42.53.
“She looked like she was just cruising out there,” said Mandella from the Winner’s Circle. “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.”
Owned by Herman Sarkowsky’s son, Steven, and Martin J. and Pam Wygod, Paradise Woods approaches her date with destiny on Friday with two wins and a second from three starts. Her earnings stand at $283,200 as she eyes the Kentucky Oaks potential winner’s share of $564,200.