Sent off as the 1-2 favorite in Saturday's G2 Santa Margarita Stakes, Steven Sarkowsky and Martin and Pam Wygod's Paradise Woods delivered on that potential with an open-lengths victory over La Force. The 5-year-old daughter of Union Rags, ridden by Mike Smith on behalf of trainer John Shirreffs, covered 1 1/8 miles over the fast main track in 1:51.95. It was the first win for Paradise Woods since the 2017 Zenyatta Stakes.
La Force closed from off the pace to gain second, while 50-1 longshot Exuberance rounded out the trifecta.
Breaking from the far outside, she laid a close second to Just a Smidge around the Club House turn and with Smith conscious of maintaining a one lane buffer between the two, Paradise Woods was in hand while one length off the pacesetter with three furlongs to go and in the blink of an eye, enjoyed what appeared to be a five length advantage at the three sixteenths pole.
“I wanted to engage her against Just a Smidge but when you engage horses they are taught to fight,” said Smith, who was aboard for the first time today. “They will get after each other, so the pace would have been quicker, I might be losing a little bit of ground, but I got her to do it relaxed. If I can get them to relax, I'd rather do that. Once I came into the far turn and engaged her, you saw what she did, she took off and she might have done that earlier.”
Most recently a much improved third in the Grade I Beholder Mile, Paradise Woods, whose last win came in the Grade I Zenyatta Stakes here on Sept. 30, 2017, was off at 3-5 and paid $3.20, $2.20 and $2.10.
Bred in Kentucky by Steven Sarkowsky, Paradise Woods, a 5-year-old mare by Union Rags out of the Forest Wildcat mare Wild Forest, registered her third graded stakes victory today, as her first came in her second career start, the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, in April, 2017.
With the winner's share of $120,000, she now has earnings of $945,890 from an overall mark of 14-4-2-3.
“When we first got her, she was very anxious,” said Shirreffs. “When she gets mad, she stays mad for a long time, so we spent a long time focused on ways to keep her from getting anxious…She has tremendous ability and we need repeatable performances and we need her to develop a style. As you saw today, she was sitting there relaxed, she was just off that filly (Just a Smidge), but she wasn't pulling.
“This is very gratifying because Marty Wygod really wanted to campaign her this year and there was a lot of criticism about not breeding her.”
In a separate race for the minors, German-bred La Force ran on for second money, finishing 5 ¼ lengths in front of longshot Exuberance. Off at 5-2 with Drayden Van Dyke, La Force paid $2.80 and $2.60.T
he biggest price in the field at 55-1, Exuberance, who bested Just a Smidge by a half length, paid $6.40 to show with Norberto Arroyo, Jr. up.
Fractions on the race were 23.37, 47.35, 1:11.59 and 1:38.30.
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