Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella was quite simply a class above her rivals in Sunday’s G2 Santa Ynez, taking a four-wide trip in stride and drawing away to win by 7 1/2 lengths under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. The 3-year-old daughter of Tapit covered seven furlongs over Santa Anita’s fast main track in 1:22.21 while under wraps. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is looking forward to the future with the filly as she earned her first 10 points on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks.
“Well, I’ve always liked her,” Hollendorfer said. “Today, she showed that she’s brilliant. We thought she’d jump out of there a little better. I thought she would be close to the lead. Mike used his judgement, got behind and then got to the outside so it worked out well and our other filly also got Grade II placed, so we’re very pleased right now.”
Slight favorite Shane’s Girlfriend broke on top of the field, but was quickly joined by Resilient Humor and Princess Karen, flanking her on either side. Leaving the chute, Resilient Humor took up a half-length lead over Shane’s Girlfriend and Princess Karen. Unique Bella was fourth, but not more than 1 1/2 lengths off the leaders. Smith held Unique Bella behind rivals, but angled her four-wide approaching the far turn.
“She was a little aggressive in the gate and she was off a tad slow,” Smith said, explaining his early position. “I probably could have moved her, set her up a bit differently in order for her to break better, but I was scared to do that and make her react and do something I wouldn’t want her to do.
“When I saw everyone else send, I thought it was a good time to take a hold of her and see what happens. It didn’t seem to bother her. When we hit the far turn, it was like she was breathing different air.”
After fractions of :22.33 and :44.58, Resilient Humor was joined by the four-wide rush of Shane’s Girlfriend, Princess Karen and Unique Bella, with It Tiz Well trying to make up ground from fifth in the five-horse field. Unique Bella smoothly galloped past her rivals around the turn, grabbing the lead by two lengths at the top of the stretch. Smith never released his hold on the filly as Unique Bella cruised home to 7 1/2-length victory. Her stablemate It Tiz Well finished second, with Shane’s Girlfriend checking in third.
“Now, it’s more reasonable to compare her (to champion, 4-year-old filly Songbird),” Smith said with a grin. “Again, she’s very, very talented but with room to grow. Hopefully with each step, she’ll get smarter about certain things. I’m just blessed, that’s all I can say.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by Brushwood Stable, Unique Bella was a $ 400,000 Keeneland yearling purchase. Her dam, Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Unrivaled Belle (Unbridled’s Song), was recently purchased at the 2016 Keeneland November sale for $ 3.8 million by Mandy Pope, and is carrying a full sibling to Unique Bella. In her first career start, Unique Bella finished second after a poor start, but she aired easily in her second start against maiden special weight company. The Santa Ynez was only the third start of a promising career, leaving her with two wins from three starts and earnings of over $ 160,000.
Watch the race replay here:
Unique Bella was a dominant winner of the G2 Santa Ynez! pic.twitter.com/XBLqbF2ZWt
— TVG (@TVG) January 9, 2017
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