04/08/2017 6:05PM

Paradise Woods dominates Santa Anita Oaks

Emily Shields
Paradise Woods, under Flavien Prat, romps by 11 3/4 lengths in the Santa Anita Oaks.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Paradise Woods won her stakes debut in Saturday’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks by 11 3/4 lengths. Jockey Flavien Prat was not entirely surprised by the performance.

Abel Tasman, the 3-5 favorite, finished second, a result that left jockey Mike Smith disappointed.

The first two finishers are expected to start in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Paradise Woods ($18.20) led throughout the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles to win her second consecutive start and first race around two turns.

Prat had Paradise Woods away well and in control of the race throughout. She set a solid pace of 23.46 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 47.35 for a half-mile, leading by 1 1/2 lengths for the first seven furlongs.

In early stretch, Paradise Woods responded quickly to Prat’s urging, drawing away to hold a 10-length advantage with a furlong to go.

“I was just cruising,” Prat said. “I opened a little bit and I was gone.”

Paradise Woods, trained by Richard Mandella for Marty Wygod and Steve Sarkowsky, was timed in 1:42.53. By Union Rags, Paradise Woods was bred by Sarkowsky’s late father, Herman.

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Abel Tasman, the winner of the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes at Los Alamitos last December, closed from last in a field of seven to finish a clear second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of It Tiz Well, the winner of the Grade 3 Honeybee Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 11.

Smith said Abel Tasman could not have caught Paradise Woods even with her best effort. He was surprised Abel Tasman was not closer early in the race.

“I felt that she was too much off the bridle,” Smith said. “That thing of Mandella’s blew the field away. She was gone. I made sure we got second. There was no catching the winner.”

The Santa Anita Oaks was Abel Tasman’s first start for trainer Bob Baffert. She was trained by Simon Callaghan last year and for her first start this year, a second to Unique Bella in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes on March 4.

Days after that race, Abel Tasman was transferred to Baffert by co-owner China Horse Club after a dispute arose over the silks jockey Joe Talamo wore in the Santa Ysabel. Abel Tasman was supposed to wear the China Horse Club silks, but a mix-up occurred and she wore the silks of co-owner Clearsky Stable. Abel Tasman wore the China Horse Club silks in the Santa Anita Oaks.

In the Santa Anita Oaks, Mopotism finished fourth, followed by Majestic Quality, Bernina Star, and Princess Karen.

Paradise Woods is trained by Richard Mandella for Marty Wygod and Steve Sarkowsky. By Union Rags, Paradise Woods was bred by Sarkowsky’s late father, Herman.

Paradise Woods was second in her debut on Jan. 26 and won a maiden race at 5 1/2 furlongs on March 11. Prat has been involved with Paradise Woods before her career debut.

“When I first worked her, I thought she was a good filly, but she’d never run and you don’t know what can happen,” he said.

“The first time I expected too much. The next time she ran a brilliant race. She’s still learning.”