There's another freak filly on the West Coast and her name is Paradise Woods.
Following in the footsteps of former stablemate Beholder, and the likes of Songbird and Unique Bella, the lightly raced daughter of Union Rags romped by a record-setting 11 3/4 lengths April 8 in the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1).
The Richard Mandella-trained filly's win margin surpassed that of Silver Spoon, who aired by 10 1/2 lengths in 1959.
Owned by Steven Sarkowsky and Martin and Pam Wygod, Paradise Woods set fractions of :23.46, :47.34, and 1:11.48 through six furlongs and galloped comfortably on the lead under jockey Flavien Prat.
“Down the backside it was all her," Prat said. "I didn’t do anything. I just let her have her way.”
As Paradise Woods turned for home, the field toiled behind. She covered a mile in 1:36.07 and completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.53 at Santa Anita Park.
“I’ve always been high on her," Prat said. "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 Jan. 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."
Off at 8-1 odds in the Santa Anita Oaks, Paradise Woods was exiting a 4 1/4-length maiden victory going 5 1/2 furlongs March 11 at Santa Anita. She handled the stretch out in distance like a pro.
“The next time out, she won like a good filly," Prat said. "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."
Princess Karen was closest to the frontrunning winner through three-quarters of a mile, but could not keep up and tired to finish last.
“She looked like she was just cruising out there," Mandella said of Paradise Woods, who was bred in Kentucky by Herman Sarkowsky out of the Forest Wildcat mare Wild Forest. "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 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 (was injured), 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 and how things develop. She was really nasty to saddle today, but she ran great.”
Heavy favorite Abel Tasman closed from last to finish second under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, but was never remotely a threat to the winner.
“I think Mike Smith got a feel for her today," trainer Bob Baffert said of Abel Tasman's run. "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 (headed to) the Kentucky Oaks.”
Another 2 1/4 lengths back came last-out Honeybee (G3) winner It Tiz Well in third, followed by Mopotism, Majestic Quality, Bernina Star, and Princess Karen to complete the order of finish. Paradise Woods now has $283,200 in earnings. With 100 points, she ranks fourth on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.
“You know, Mandella’s horse really just blew the field away," Smith said. "She just 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.
"Today, it was all Mandella. No one was beating that horse."