GRADE I, $400,000 SANTA ANITA OAKS ON APRIL 8 NEXT TARGET FOR 3-YEAR-OLD FILLY BY TAPIT
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 4, 2017)–Unique Bella reigned supreme once again in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes against 3-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles over the main track in 1:43.11. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Mike Smith, favored Unique Bella defeated five rivals in preparation for the Grade I, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks at Santa Anita Park on April 8.
“It was pretty eventful,” quipped Smith after dismounting the massive filly by Tapit out of the Unbridled’s Song mare, Unrivaled Belle. “Sometimes you just have to stay out of the way of the good ones and they’ll run for you.”
After a slow start from the rail, Unique Bella sat behind Tap It All, with Santiago Gonzalez aboard, into the first turn. Not wanting to be trapped down by the rail, Smith made a quick decision and mounted an aggressive move in between horses, forcing stablemate Spooky Woods wide in order to get to the outside.
“I was wondering if Mike would stay on the rail or get out in the open,” stated Hollendorfer following the race. “He chose to get out in the open.”
Abel Tasman, off since her win in the Grade I Starlet on December 10, launched a game move at the 3/16 pole turning for home but never quite reached Unique Bella and was quickly put away when Smith waved his stick at “Bella” keeping his filly on task.
“Hats off to the winner,” stated Joe Talamo, who was aboard Abel Tasman. “What a special filly she is. I had a lot of horse and we had a beautiful trip.”
“When I saw her come into the lane I felt she was waiting on horses a little bit,” said Hollendorfer regarding Unique’s Bella’s stretch run. “Mike had to wave the stick but she responded right away. I wasn’t too worried.”
When asked what is next for his newest budding superstar, Hollendorfer confirmed that he would keep Unique Bella running against fillies and will point towards the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles on April 8. “It’s a perfect progression. We’d like to go for the Santa Anita Oaks and if we win, or do well, then we’ll try to go to Kentucky for the Oaks.”
Unique Bella, owned by the Don Alberto Stable was off at 1-9 and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10.
With $60,000 awarded to the winner, Unique Bella now has lifetime earnings of $342,400 and a record of 5-4-1-0.
Ridden by Joe Talamo, Abel Tasman, trained by Simon Callaghan, was off at 5-1 and paid $2.40 and 2.10
Fractions on the race were 23.35, 46.23, 1:10.70 and 1:36.73.
Live Racing returns on Sunday, with a massive Pick Five carryover of $335,216 into the day’s nine card. The Pick Five will be comprised of races one through five, including the Grade III, Las Flores Stakes which is slated as race three. Gates open at 10:30 a.m. and first post is at 12:30 p.m. For morning line information, scratches and changes, visit: http://www.santaanita.com/live-racing/.