Unique Bella, an Eclipse Award finalist for outstanding female sprinter of 2017, worked four furlongs on Santa Anita’s fast main track Saturday morning in 49.60, breezing, for an expected start in the Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 10.

“She worked great,” said Dan Ward, assistant to Jerry Hollendorfer, who had exercise rider Fred Rodriguez aboard for the drill. “She’s really learning how to relax. She was standing out there by herself, no pony, nothing, just relaxed, then went off slow and finished great.

“This is going to help her in her races.”

Unique Bella, a $400,000 daughter of Tapit owned by Don Alberto Stable, won the Grade I La Brea Stakes at seven furlongs Dec. 26 by three-quarters of a length after finishing seventh and last in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Nov. 4 at Del Mar, setting the pace in the race, also at seven furlongs, until turning for home.

Overall, Unique Bella has six wins from eight starts with earnings of $592,400. Just turned four on Jan. 1, the gray filly would be trying two turns for the third time should she run in the Santa Maria. She won the Grade II Las Virgenes Stakes at one mile last Feb. 5, and the Grade III Santa Ysabel at 1 1/16 miles on March 4.

In six starts at her home base of Santa Anita, Unique Bella has lost only once, finishing second after a slow start in her debut, on June 23, 2016.



Yesterday’s News stays on the main track in Sunday’s Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs after a second in the Grade I Starlet at 1 1/16 miles on dirt Dec. 9 at Los Alamitos.

Prior to the Starlet, the daughter of New Year’s Day trained by Simon Callaghan for Reddam Racing ran twice at one mile on turf.

“I think she’s better on the main track,” Callaghan said. “She ran a great race last time. The Santa Ynez is a pretty competitive race and she’s cutting back in distance, but she’s training well and I expect a good run.”

The Santa Ynez: Artistic Diva, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; Steph Being Steph, Stewart Elliott, 15-1; Streetwithnoname, Joe Talamo, 20-1; Allianna, Kent Desormeaux, 6-1; War Heroine, Flavien Prat, 4-1; Yesterday’s News, Mario Gutierrez, 8-1; Win the War, Tyler Gaffalione, 5-2; Midnight Bisou, Mike Smith, 3-1; Just a Smidge, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1.



            (Release from Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement)

Old Friends, the Thoroughbred Retirement facility based in Georgetown, Ky., owes a big debt to the NFL this week–specifically New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.

Thanks to the Big Ten record-holder–who will kick off against the Carolina Panthers in the first NFL Wild Card round Sunday–one of Old Friend’s retired mares was able to have a life-saving operation.

Old Friends is a non-profit sanctuary for more than 175 retired race horses, including two Kentucky Derby winners and numerous other champions. When one of its residents, Misszoey Belle, a 13-year-old mare, showed sudden and severe signs of a gastrointestinal disorder in mid-December, it was determined that surgery was her only chance for survival.

A hard-knocker on the track, Misszoey Belle had 74 starts and seven wins, earning only $70,000 in her career and racing until she was eight. After he final start she was bought back by her breeder, John C. Oxley (whose Classic Empire won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in 2016), and retired to Old Friends.

The mare was rushed to Lexington’s Park Equine Clinic, which usually provides Old Friends with cost-free veterinary care. But an equine surgeon was not available. So the clinic called Dr. Christopher Johnson, whose Equine Surgical Services is located in nearby Versailles.

She underwent surgery to repair a very serious intestinal obstruction known as an epiploic foramen entrapment. Her life spared, Misszoey Belle returned to Old Friends a few days later and is now recovering well with an excellent prognosis.

Discovering that the mare was an Old Friends retiree, Dr. Johnson offered to waive his fee. But knowing that he was a huge Saints fan, Old Friends resident veterinarian Dr. Bryan Waldridge offered Johnson a concession: How about an autographed football?

“I went to high school in New Orleans, so I have been a Saints fan as long as I’ve been alive,” says Johnson.

Luckily, New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson is also a well-known racehorse owner, and one of his former runners, Saint Aloysius, was retired to Old Friends after suffering a career-ending injury last year.

Old Friends founder and President Michael Blowen made a call to the Saints’ office and Brees was kind enough to help out.

“We always love helping Old Friends and Michael,” said Greg Bensel, who manages GMB Racing for the Bensons and is also the Senior Vice President of Communications for the Saints. “After all, he was there for us when we needed a good home for Saint Aloysius.

“Drew is so kind and giving with his time that when we need a signed ball he’s always available,” Bensel continued. “And to be honest, he loves the horse racing industry and he loves that the horses at Old Friends get great care. So while he is busy planning for the Panthers game, I know he feels great about this.”

“It’s really great to see professional athletes such as Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints helping our professional athletes like Misszoey Belle when they need us most,” said Blowen. “We can’t thank the team and Dr. Johnson enough.”


FINISH LINES: Department of Good News: Agent Carolyn Conley reports apprentice Laura Werner was uninjured when unseated around the far turn in yesterday’s sixth race aboard Sharp Holiday, who clipped heels and fell very hard. “Remarkably unscathed,” is how Conley described Werner’s condition this morning. Additionally, Sharp Holiday, who regained her feet immediately, appeared uninjured as well . . . There is a Pick Six carryover of $70,072 into Saturday’s races . . . Santa Anita offers another Dollar Day on Monday, Jan. 15, when there will be holiday racing on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Sodas and beers will be a buck apiece . . . Congratulations to the great Trevor Denman, as he’ll be inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame at SCSB’s annual awards luncheon Jan. 22 at Lakeside Golf Club in Toluca Lake. Denman will be joined by fellow inductee and longtime Lakers television analyst Stu Lantz, and the SCSB’s Vin Scully Lifetime Achievement Award will go to the LA Kings’ Bob Miller.  For more information on the luncheon, please contact SCSB executive director Rand Elkins at . . . Speaking of broadcasters, a tip of the St. Louis Cardinals’ and Chicago Cubs’ caps to Michael Wrona, who, when describing trainer Gary Stute-trained Caray steaming to a 4 ¾ length win in Friday’s fourth race, exclaimed “Holy Cow!! Caray has stolen the race!!” (Harry would’ve loved it).


(Current Through Friday, Jan. 5)
Jockey Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Evin Roman 35 8 4 3 23% 43% $224,434
Kent Desormeaux 29 6 3 2 21% 38% $355,013
Rafael Bejarano 29 6 2 7 21% 52% $234,547
Drayden Van Dyke 29 4 1 3 14% 28% $317,908
Tiago Pereira 12 3 2 0 25% 42% $96,960
Mike Smith 15 3 1 3 20% 47% $470,028
Trainer Mts 1st 2nd 3rd Win% ITM% Money Won
Peter Miller 20 5 3 3 25% 55% $221,570
Mark Glatt 17 4 4 1 24% 53% $181,770
Vladimir Cerin 8 4 2 0 50% 75% $106,140
Jerry Hollendorfer 16 3 3 2 19% 50% $275,801
William E. Morey 4 3 0 1 75% 100% $64,800