By: EverythingEQ News Team
In her stakes debut on Saturday, January 8, Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella proved her superstar performance last November was no fluke. The gray/roan filly commandeered the field as she drew away to win the seven furlong $200,000 Gr.2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita Park by daylight.
Out of the gate, Resilient Humor, Princess Karen, and Shane’s Girlfriend engaged in a three-way battle for the lead, taking the field through a quarter in :22.33. Unique Bella, piloted by Hall of Fame reins-man Mike Smith, ran off the pace early but made her move on the turn. After the half in :44.58, Unique Bella, was only a head behind Resilient Humor after going four wide and it took her only moments to blast past the leader. As she neared the stretch, Unique Bella angled in toward the rail and drew off from the field from there, marking off a time of 1:09.28 for six furlongs and hitting the wire to stop the clock at 1:22.21. The official margin of victory was 7 ½ lengths.
“She was a little aggressive in the gate and she was off a tad slow. I probably could have set her up a bit differently, but I didn’t want to react too quickly and make matters worse,” explained jockey Mike Smith. “When I saw everyone else send, I thought it was a good time to take a hold of her. When we hit the far turn, it was like she was breathing different air. She’s very talented, but with room to grow.”
The Santa Ynez was the first prep race of the year on the Road to the Kentucky Oaks. It awarded 10 points to the winner, four points to second place, two points to third place, and one point to fourth place. Unique Bella currently stands in 10th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.
Unique Bella is a Pennsylvania-bred by industry leading sire Tapit and is the first foal out of Unrivaled Belle to hit the racetrack. She was bred by Brushwood Stable and was purchased out of the Keeneland September 2015 Yearling Sale for $400,000. The Santa Ynez was the filly’s first graded stakes attempt and her third race overall; from those three starts, she boasts two wins and a second, totaling earnings of $162,400. Unique Bella is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, who also trains top filly Songbird.