ARCADIA, CA – Trainer Richard Mandella’s Paradise Woods relished returning to her home track after a summer spent not racing well at other tracks, breezing away from a field of three other fillies and mares to take Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita.
The Zenyatta is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Paradise Woods receiving an automatic berth in the $2 million Longines Distaff at Del Mar on Friday, November 3.
The record-setting Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks winner sped to the lead out of the gate under regular rider Flavien Prat and set fractions of :23.13, :46.89, 1:11.50, and 1:37.33 while maintaining a minimum of 4 lengths between herself and her foes. The competition never stiffened for the 3-year-old daughter of Union Rags, who crossed the wire in hand by 5 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:44.34 for the 1 1/16-mile main track event.
“It was a lot different today,” Prat said. “Today, she broke just a tad slow, but she got going and really relaxed for me on the backside. We’ve been working on her relaxing because she has a tendency sometimes to be very aggressive. She was quite good today and we look forward to the next step.”
The remainder of the small field was stretched out along the Santa Anita stretch. Faithfully came in second, 13 1/4 lengths ahead of Motown Lady, who in turn was 9 1/4 lengths ahead of Midnight Toast, who was 27 3/4 lengths behind the winner. Rockport Babe and Shenandoah Queen were scratched.
Owned by Steven Sarkowsky and Martin and Pam Wygod, Paradise Woods improved her record to 6-3-1-0 with $473,545 in career earnings. With the win under her belt, her connections feel much better about her heading into the Distaff.
“It sure does feel good (to have her back in form), but she had good excuses in her last two races,” Martin Wygod said. “I never lost confidence in her, and (Mandella) never lost confidence in her, either. It always makes you feel good going into whatever we decide we want to do with her. It didn’t take much out of her – she was hardly blowing, and you could see (Prat) was having difficulty pulling her up.”
Paradise Woods returned $3 to win and $2.20 to place, while Faithfully paid $ 2.20 to place. There was no show betting.