Richard Mandella shakes hands with jockey Flavien Prat after Paradise Woods' victory in the Santa Anita Oaks

Richard Mandella shakes hands with jockey Flavien Prat after Paradise Woods' victory in the Santa Anita Oaks

Benoit Photo

Paradise Woods Brings Mandella Back to Kentucky Oaks

Hall of Fame trainer has 81 grade 1 wins but has never won the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

In the Santa Anita Park grandstand with his wife Randi April 9, along with his son and fellow trainer Gary Mandella, Richard Mandella monitored morning workers beneath the San Gabriel Mountains and reflected upon what happened there a day before.

Mandella isn't in the Hall of Fame for no reason. He's had his share of standout runners. But what Paradise Woods did April 8 put her in the Santa Anita record books. The frontrunning 11 3/4-length romp was the widest winning margin ever in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), breaking a record that has stood since 1959, when Silver Spoon won the race by 10 1/2.

The Union Rags  filly made a quality field, featuring grade 1 winner Abel Tasman and last-out Honeybee (G3) victress It Tiz Well, also-rans with her spectacular performance. The even-keeled horseman isn't getting too far ahead of himself, but he also expressed confidence in his budding star.

BALAN: Paradise Woods Romps in Santa Anita Oaks

"We've always thought she was a good filly," Mandella said with a subtle smile. "I mean, I did nominate her for the Triple Crown."

Up next for Paradise Woods, with the obligatory caveat that all goes well during her training, will be the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), where she'll try to one-up former stablemate Beholder, who won the Santa Anita Oaks then ran second in the Kentucky Oaks in 2013.

"That's the plan for now—the Oaks," Mandella said.

Paradise Woods gave Mandella his 81st grade 1 victory, but the trainer has never won the Kentucky Oaks.

"I thought Beholder had a pretty good shot (in the Kentucky Oaks), but she fought with the pony going to the gate and tossed the rider before the race, so I was just happy she got through it," Mandella said. "We're excited to go. I haven't had any luck in the Oaks or the Derby, so maybe I'm coming of age.

"She showed yesterday she can be as good as any filly."