Unique Bella in Class of Her Own in Las Virgenes
By: EverythingEQ News Team
Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella has shown she is top material in the past and left no question about her form on Sunday, February 5. In a small field of four, which included 2016 champion two-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Champagne Room, Unique Bella delivered her most spectacular performance to date to win the $200,000 Gr.2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Making her two-turn debut, Unique Bella settled in third, under regular jockey Mike Smith, after the break, while Mopotism took the lead and Champagne Room ran along in second through fractions of :22.82 for the first quarter. After that, the race was a one-horse show. Smith sat still aboard his mount while she navigated three-wide to take command on the backstretch. The filly continued to open up her lead with ease, taking the other horses through a half in :45.62 and six furlongs in 1:10.27. Champagne Room made a move briefly on the far turn, coming within a length of Unique Bella, but proved no match to the gray filly. Under wraps, Unique Bella hit the wire 8 ¾ lengths ahead of Mopotism. Champagne Room was another 1 ¼ lengths back in third and Miss Southern Miss rounded out the order of finish.
The final time for the mile was 1:35.66 over a fast track.
“The way she settled, I could have taken her even farther back,” jockey Mike Smith said after the race. “At some point you have to let them be who they are – let them do what they’re good at. I just let her do what she wanted to do and she picked it up, and was well within herself.”
Unique Bella has made only four starts to date, breaking her maiden second time out following a strong second-place finish in her debut. She romped in that victory and was quickly moved to stakes company in her third start, taking the Gr.2 Santa Ynez Stakes by 7 ½ lengths, on January 8. Sunday’s victory boosted her earnings to $282,400.
With the impressive performance, conversation was sparked about sending the filly to the Kentucky Derby, but trainer Jerry Hollendorfer indicated he would prefer to keep his charge racing against the girls. “I’d like to keep her in California just like I did with Songbird,” he said. “There’s enough money to run out here and run against the girls, not the boys. I think we’ll try to run here and if we’d be fortunate enough, we’d point to the [Longines Kentucky] Oaks.”
Fernando Diaz-Valdes, racing manager for Don Alberto Stable, indicated that there may be more consideration about the Derby. “I think it’s too early to say,” he said. “We’ll have to look at what is happening around the country. I’m told I should go to the Kentucky Derby, when the time comes, but we’ll see.”
Unique Bella is Triple Crown nominated but currently holds no points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard. The Las Virgenes offered points toward the Road to the Kentucky Oaks, awarding them on a 10-4-2-1 basis to the top four finishers. Unique Bella, with her total of 20 points, currently ranks in third place on the Oaks leaderboard.
Unique Bella, who is by Tapit and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unrivaled Belle, was bred in Pennsylvania by Brushwood Stable. She was consigned by Eaton Sales at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, where she was purchased by Don Alberto for $400,000.
Photo: Amanda Murphy for EverythingEQ.com