Paradise Woods at Santa Anita Park

Paradise Woods at Santa Anita Park

Zoe Metz

Maturing Paradise Woods Headlines Santa Monica

The once unpredictable Union Rags filly has been consistent in her past three starts.

Paradise Woods, once a wild card when she went to the track, has shown a level of consistency in three straight starts.

Based on those starts—an impressive, second top-level win in the Zenyatta Stakes (G1), a third-place run in the Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1), and a close second in the La Brea Stakes (G1)—the once unpredictable nature of the Union Rags  filly's races appears to be behind her.

"Things just didn't go well a few times, which is all I could say, but she's got a little temper and she's showed it a couple times," trainer Richard Mandella said of Paradise Woods' off-the-board finishes as the favorite in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and the Torrey Pines Stakes (G3) in 2017. "Each (horse) is different, but she's handling herself lately. That was an immaturity thing we had to deal with last year."

Now, after an illness delayed her training and the start of her 4-year-old campaign, Steven Sarkowsky and Martin and Pam Wygod's more mature Paradise Woods will look to continue her momentum—and consistency—in the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes (G2) March 24 at Santa Anita Park.

Although Paradise Woods hasn't won her past two starts, the company she has kept makes her a top contender in a short Santa Monica field. In the Distaff, she was a well-beaten third behind champions Forever Unbridled and Abel Tasman, but she was the only frontrunner who hit the board. In the La Brea, she came up just three-quarters of a length short behind current freak filly du jour Unique Bella.

The field may be small for the seven-furlong Santa Monica, but the two females drawn to Paradise Woods' outside, should they run their best, will not be so easy to put away.

Both Selcourt and Skye Diamonds are exiting the Feb. 18 Las Flores Stakes (G3), a six-furlong race in which they were just three-quarters of a length apart at the wire, with the speedy Selcourt holding the edge at Santa Anita that day. But the connections of Skye Diamonds, who finished third with Coniah between them, believe the extra furlong will only help the 5-year-old First Dude  mare, as will her increased fitness in her second race off a 3 1/2-month layoff.

BALAN: Selcourt Digs in to Win Las Flores

"Those are very good fillies she was running against, and the main takeaway for us was that she came back right where she left off," co-owner Jeff Bloom said of the two-time graded winner. "She probably needed a race, and for her to fight, considering how good that race was, was really encouraging. Those horses didn't just come back to her. They kept running.

"As close as she was at the finish and the way she galloped out, it validated our opinion that she's even better than she was last year. She's carrying great weight, her attitude is great, and she's thriving."

Completing the field are allowance winners Marley's Freedom and Just a Little Hope.

Entries: Santa Monica S. (G2)

Santa Anita Park, Saturday, March 24, 2018, Race 5

  • Grade II
  • 7f
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 4 yo's & up Fillies and Mares
  • 2:08 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Marley's Freedom (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDrayden Van Dyke120Robert B. Hess, Jr.6/1
22Just a Little Hope (KY)Evin A. Roman120Dan L. Hendricks15/1
33Paradise Woods (KY)Flavien Prat124Richard E. Mandella1/1
44Skye Diamonds (CA)Tiago Josue Pereira122William Spawr5/2
55Selcourt (KY)Tyler Baze122John W. Sadler5/2