By Mike Willman —-
CHAMPION UNIQUE BELLA ROLLS BY NINE LENGTHS IN GRADE II, $200,000 SANTA MARIA STAKES; SMITH & HOLLENDORFER TEAM FOR 1 1/16 MILES WIN IN 1:43.45
ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2018)—In what amounted to a stroll in the park at The Great Race Place, Eclipse Champion Unique Bella waltzed to a seemingly effortless nine length victory in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes under Mike Smith. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, the 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Tapit got a mile and one sixteenth in gate to wire fashion in 1:43.45 while geared down late.
Breaking sharply from her number four post position, Unique Bella made an easy lead going into the Club House turn with Majestic Heat in hot pursuit. At the quarter pole, she opened up three lengths on Majestic Heat and increased that margin with consummate ease, as expressed by track announcer Michael Wrona at the wire:
“Unique Bella, twelve hundred pounds of horsepower, and she’s dominated the Santa Maria, from the gate opening.”
A three quarter length winner of the Grade I La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26, Unique Bella was the prohibitive 1-9 favorite in a field of five older fillies and mares and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10.
Crowned 2017’s Eclipse Champion Filly Sprinter, Unique Bella is owned by Don Alberto Stable, which collected $120,000 for the win, increasing her earnings to $712,400. Her overall mark now stands at 9-7-1-0.
In what amounted to a separate race, Mopotism outran Majestic Heat in the final sixteenth of a mile to run second by 1 ¼ lengths.
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Mopotism was off at 6-1 and paid $2.80 and $2.10.
Majestic Heat, with Flavien Prat up, finished 9 ½ lengths in front of Shenandoah Queen. Off at 8-1, Majestic Heat paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.54, 46.80, 1:10.95 and 1:36.49.
SANTA MARIA STAKES QUOTES
GRADE II, $200,000
MIKE SMITH, UNIQUE BELLA, WINNER: “I really don’t think we’ve seen how good she can be. I’ve surely seen how easily she’s doing things right now which I think is extremely impressive. I truly believe we haven’t gotten to the bottom of it. There could even be more to her. I’m excited to see what the future holds for her, I really am. There are some different things we can do with her too because of her size. She probably can step up to the boys at some point. Who knows because she’s not just a one-gutted kind of filly. She’s got a lot to her. She’s built more like a colt.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, UNIQUE BELLA, WINNER: “We thought we would be on the lead, but Mike (Smith) was talking with me this morning, and we thought that if somebody went real; hard or something lie that we’d just try to lay off the pace and see if she would relax, but she got out to the lead and was handling the track very well. I think she really got a hold of the track today.
“I think we’ll look at the next race here (Grade I, $400,000 Santa Margarita Stakes, 1 1/8 miles March 17) and try to point for that, and then who knows what will happen after that? We’ll look at the Santa Margarita for sure. There are other races around the same time. We’d look at the Apple Blossom (OaklawnPark April 13), but I’d like to stay home if we can.”
FEBRIZIO BUFFOLO, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DON ALBERTO STABLE, UNIQUE BELLA, WINNER: “It’s up in the air, but I think the logical thing to do would be to run in the Santa Margarita (Grade I, $400,000 at 1 1/8 miles on March 17). We’ll keep her at two turns. Jerry said she was going to run a big race, but not this big.”
NOTES: The winning owner is Don Alberto Stable.
Santa Anita Park is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida, and is one of North America’s top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation The Stronach Group is one of the world’s largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; Xpressbet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is North America’s premier supplier of virtual online horseracing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry.