Hopes have always been high for Paradise Woods. A beautiful daughter of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Union Rags, she set the racing world ablaze in only her third start Apr. 8, 2017.
Gaining the lead from the start, the bay filly dismantled her six opponents in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1), the West Coast’s top prep for the Kentucky Oaks (G1), the defining race for 3-year-old fillies in America. Crossing the wire 11 3/4 lengths clear of Abel Tasman — already a Grade 1 winner at that— the Richard Mandella trainee served notice that she was a force to reckon with and went into the Kentucky Oaks as the clear favorite.
Even more impressive about her Santa Anita Oaks win was that she not only jumped up from the maiden ranks to Grade 1 company with aplomb, but she also handled the added distance of going from 5 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/16 miles without a hitch. This did not go unnoticed in Kentucky, as she was bet down to 6-5 favoritism, but ultimately faltered to finish 11th after a brutal early pace dual with multiple graded stakes winner Miss Sky Warrior.
Bred by Herman Sarkowsky and owned by her breeder in partnership with Martin J and Pam Wygod, Paradise Woods was given nearly four months off before returning in Del Mar’s Torrey Pines Stakes Aug. 27, but weakened to finish sixth, much to her connections’ confusion.
Such worry quickly wilted next out, as she returned to Santa Anita to the same course and trip of her Santa Anita Oaks win, again running away from the field in gate-to-wire fashion by open lengths. This time, however, she defeated older fillies and mares, including well-regarded stakes winner Faithfully.
Paradise Woods now returns to Del Mar and must prove she can perform at her best outside of Santa Anita. A championship is on the line, as a victory would put her in the running for year-end honors if she can defeat fellow 3-year-old multiple Grade 1 winners Abel Tasman and Elate.