ARCADIA, CA – Two years after winning the event as a 3-year-old, Paradise Woods powered away late on Sunday to again win the $200,000 Zenyatta Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
The Zenyatta is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Paradise Woods receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Distaff at Santa Anita Park this November.
Breaking well from post 3 under Abel Cedillo at 7/2 odds, Paradise Woods was able to hustle up and enter the clubhouse turn in a close stalking second. Secret Spice broke strongly from the rail under Flavien Prat as the 4/5 favorite and set the pace through fractions of :23.14, :46.83, and 1:11.30.
At the top of the turn, Secret Spice still held command, but Paradise Woods began inching up alongside her and met her eye at the 1/8 pole. Continuing to edge ahead in deep stretch, Paradise Woods crossed 1 3/4 lengths ahead in a final time of 1:44.31 for the 1 1/16-mile event over the fast main track.
“(Her previous jockey Mike Smith) told me, ‘You’ve got to keep her calm and she’ll try hard,’” said Cedillo, who on Saturday won the Awesome Again (G1) – a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Classic – with Mongolian Groom. “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 was the speed and he would go. We broke good and I just (put run on her mind). I wanted to be close and not let him go by himself.”
Secret Spice had just enough left to withstand a surge late rally from Ollie’s Candy, who was last seen winning the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1), another “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Distaff. La Force headed Mongolian Humor for fourth, while behind them came Kaydetre to complete the order of finish.
Paradise Woods’ win was her second of the year, having taken the Santa Margarita Stakes (G2) here in April for her first victory with new trainer John Shirreffs. The 5-year-old daughter of Union Rags improved her record to 17-5-3-3 with $1,123,890 earned for co-owners Martin and Pam Wygod and HS Stable, who also bred her.
Paradise Woods will train toward the Breeders’ Cup for the second time. Following her prior Zenyatta win, she finished third in the 2017 Longines Distaff.
“We wanted her to break well and not get shuffled back and hopefully to be in the clear,” said Shirreffs, who also trained the Hall of Fame mare in honor of whom the race is named. “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 would be available for the Breeders’ Cup, so this was the time if you’re going to make a change.”
Paradise Woods returned $9.60 to win, $4.20 to place, and $2.80 to show. Secret Spice brought back $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show, while Ollie’s Candy paid $2.40 to show.