Santa Anita Press Release

Jockey Abel Cedillo (Photo Credit: Rebekah Welch / The Seattle Times)

ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 29, 2019)–Paradise Woods, always long on ability, but limited at times by her own idiosyncrasies, was all business in Sunday’s Grade II, $200,000 Zenyatta Stakes at Santa Anita, as she stalked favored Secret Spice early and took command a sixteenth of a mile from home en route to an impressive 1 ¾ length win under first-time pilot Abel Cedillo. Trained by John Shirreffs, the trainer of the legendary mare for whom today’s race was named, Paradise Woods, a 5-year-old mare by Union Rags, got a mile and one sixteenth in 1:44.31 and will now set her sights on the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.

(A Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race qualifier, the Zenyatta winner earns an automatic fees-paid berth into the 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.”

Off at 7-2 in a field of six fillies and mares three and up, Paradise Woods paid $9.60, $4.20 and $2.80.

Bred in Kentucky by Herman Sarkowsky, Paradise Woods, who is out of the Forest Wildcat mare Wild Forest, is owned by HS Stable and Pam and Martin Wygod. A winner of the Grade I Zenyatta at age three when trained by Richard Mandella in 2017, Paradise Woods now has four graded stakes wins to her credit and her overall mark stands at 17-5-3-3.  With today’s winner’s share of $120,000, her earnings went to $1,123,890.

“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.”