Unique Bella Wins Fourth Consecutive Race

Mike Smith with Unique Bella after her win in the Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita Park. Photo by Terri Keith.

Unique Bella — who is regarded by many as one of the best 3-year-old horses of either sex — won her fourth consecutive victory Saturday in the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel at Santa Anita Park.

The latest win for the daughter of Tapit and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle was by the closest margin in her five-race career, with the striking gray filly finishing the 1 1/16-mile race in 1:43:11, 2 1/4 lengths ahead of Abel Tasman.

Unique Bella went off as the 1-9 favorite in a field of six and paid $2.20 to win and $2.10 each to place and show.

Spooky Woods, who like Unique Bella, is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, finished third in the $100,345 race.

Hollendorfer said he would like to run Unique Bella in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks April 8.

“We’d like to take one step at a time so we’ll go for the Santa Anita Oaks and if we win or do well, then we’ll try to go to Kentucky,” he said, noting that the goal for the “very talented filly” is the Kentucky Oaks.

When asked if he had any thoughts about running Unique Bella against her male counterparts, Hollendorfer said, “I don’t have any thoughts about it, but some other folks do, I guess.”

“Finally it’s one step closer with what we want to do with her — I think (the) Santa Anita Oaks for sure,” said Fernando Diaz-Valdez, racing manager for Don Alberto Stable, which owns Unique Bella.

Unique Bella finished second in her first start last June, but subsequently reeled off a trio of dominating finishes that have stamped her as the 3-year-old filly to beat this year.

She won by 10 1/4 lengths in a maiden race last November at Del Mar, then went on to win the Grade 2 Santa Ynez at Santa Anita by 7 1/2 lengths and the Grade 2 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita by 8 3/4 lengths.

Hollendorfer called it “a great honor” for Unique Bella to be the even-money favorite in the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager.

The trainer noted that the filly “didn’t get away great today,” but told reporters, “We’ll fix that.”

Jockey Mike Smith has ridden Unique Bella in all of her starts, but said her latest was “pretty eventful.”

“Sometimes you just stay out of the way of the good ones and they’ll run for you. That’s pretty much what I did today,” Smith said.

Jockey Joe Talamo, who was aboard runner-up Abel Tasman, said he had a “lot of horse” under him heading for home in the filly’s first race since she won the Grade 1 Starlet at Los Alamitos Race Course last December.

“Hats off to the winner. What a special filly she is, because like I said I really had a lot of horse and we had a beautiful trip,” Talamo said, adding that he was “so proud” of Abel Tasman and thinks she’s “definitely going to move forward from here.”

Horse Bits

Hollendorfer said he feels blessed to “have good horses” and “really grateful to have a horse like Unique Bella and equally as well last year (with) Songbird.”

As for a match-up between his 3-year-old budding superstar and the 2016 3-year-old champion filly Songbird, Hollendorfer quipped, “I hope they don’t have to match up.”

“I had enough match-up with Beholder. That was a pretty good match-up,” he said of the mare who snapped Songbird’s 11-race unbeaten streak in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Hollendorfer noted that “Songbird’s coming along,” but that no comeback race has been chosen for her yet.