HS Stable and Martin and Pam Wygod's Paradise Woods gave jockey Abel Cedillo another big win on the weekend in Sunday's Grade 2 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita. The 5-year-old daughter of Union Rags, trained by John Shirreffs, ran 1 1/16 miles over the fast main tracks in 1:44.31, winning the race for the second time since 2017. Paradise Woods' 1 1/2-length win, earned at odds of 7-2, earned her an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Distaff.
Most recently fourth in the Grade I Clement Hirsch July 28 at Del Mar, an unexpected decision was made to replace Hall of Famer Mike Smith with the recently arrived Cedillo, who bagged his third graded stakes win in the last two days.
“Mike told me you've got to keep her calm and she'll try hard,” said Cedillo, a 30-year-old native of Guatemala, who had been the perennial leading rider at Golden Gate Fields prior to shifting his tack this past summer. “I kept her outside that other filly (Secret Spice) and everything worked perfect. She was standing perfect in the gate and we knew that Prat (Flavien, aboard Secret Spice) was the speed and he would go.
“We broke good and I got just (put run on her mind). I wanted to be close and not let him (Prat) go by himself. I just want to thank all the owners and trainers for letting me ride their horses.”
The 4-5 favorite Secret Spice broke sharply and went for the lead, while Cedillo allowed Paradise Woods to range up alongside the frontrunner heading into the backstretch. After a first quarter in 23.14 seconds, Cedillo kept the pressure on Secret Spice to mark the half-mile in :46.83.
Paradise Woods drew even approaching the head of the lane, and Cedillo was able to drive the mare past her favored rival to win by about 1 1/2 lengths. Secret Spice just held the place over Ollie's Candy, while La Force finished fourth.
“We wanted her to break well and not get shuffled back and hopefully to be in the clear,” said Shirreffs. “In the past, she's gotten shuffled back and got sucked behind horses, but today she broke well and was able to get to the outside. We weren't sure if Mike (Smith) would be available for the Breeders' Cup, so this was the time if you're going to make a change.”
When asked if it was Martin Wygod's decision to keep her in training, instead of going to the breeding shed this year, Shirreffs responded, “Absolutely. He was the one who had so much faith in her and wanted to see her run another year. Turning for home, it seemed like she was maintaining her stride and she had good action the whole way…We will be taking it day by day to train for the Breeders' Cup.”
Bred in Kentucky by Herman Sarkowsky, Paradise Woods is a third-generation homebred out of the Forest Wildcat mare Wild Forest. Initially trained by Richard Mandella, the mare won the G1 Santa Anita Oaks. She returned later that year to win the Zenyatta when it was a Grade 1 race, but she did not find the winner's circle in three starts in 2018. Transferred to Shirreffs' barn for 2019, Paradise Woods won the G2 Santa Margarita and hit the board in two of her other graded stakes starts this season.
Overall, Paradise Woods has won five of her 17 starts for earnings of over $1.1 million.
New to the Paulick Report? Click here to sign up for our daily email newsletter to keep up on this and other stories happening in the Thoroughbred industry.
Copyright © 2020 Paulick Report.