December 6, 2021

Paradise Woods, La Force set for rubber match in Clement L. Hirsch

La Force winning the Santa Maria (G2) © BENOIT PHOTO

After splitting meetings in the Santa Margarita (G2) and Santa Maria (G2), Paradise Woods and La Force will meet for the third straight time in Sunday’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar. The five-year-old mares highlight a field of seven entered for the “Win & You’re In” qualifier for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

A multiple Grade 1-winning daughter of Union Rags and third in the 2017 Distaff, Paradise Woods dropped her first two starts earlier this year following a lengthy layoff before stylishly returning to winner’s circle with a 10-length romp in the April 27 Santa Margarita. She was backed down to 1-5 odds in the June 1 Santa Maria next out but could not overcome a slow start, winding up 1 1/4 lengths behind in second. Mike Smith retains the mount aboard the early/pressing type for John Shirreffs.

La Force emerged as quality distaffer when rallying to be a half-length second to Unique Bella in last year’s Clement Hirsch. The German-bred followed with another close second in the Zenyatta (G1) and then recorded an unplaced effort in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Churchill Downs. La Force may have needed the race when opening 2019 in the Santa Margarita and the late runner put it all together last time, offering a bold move on the far turn to take a clear lead into the stretch. Paddy Gallagher trains and Drayden Van Dyke rides.

Beholder Mile (G1) winner Secret Spice also rates serious consideration in the 1 1/16-mile race following a half-length second in the La Troienne (G1) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. That marked her first start past a mile and the former sprinter remains eligible to make a significant impact in the distaff division for Richard Baltas. Flavien Prat guides the front-running four-year-old.

Ollie’s Candy moves back to the main track for John Sadler following a runner-up finish in the grassy Wilshire (G3) on June 22. The four-year-old Candy Ride has made her last four attempts on turf, including a runner-up finish in the 2018 Del Mar Oaks (G1), but did captured the Summertime Oaks (G2) 13 months ago in her lone dirt start. Kent Desormeaux has the assignment.

Completing the field are Queen Bee to You, winner of the restricted Bertrando at Los Alamitos last out; Santa Maria third-placer and possible pacesetter Just a Smidge; and Spring in the Wind, who has recorded her only wins on synthetic tracks.