Horses

Racing Roundup: Pa.-Bred Unique Bella Wins In Calif.; Jack Van Berg Dies

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Don Alberto Stable's Unique Bella and jockey Mike Smith pose after their victory in the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia Calif. Credits: BENOIT PHOTO
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Don Alberto Stable's Unique Bella and jockey Mike Smith, outleg Paradise Woods (Flavien Prat), to win the Grade I, $300,000 La Brea Stakes, Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia Calif. Credits: BENOIT PHOTO
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Unique Bella Wins At Santa Anita

When they wound up the 2017 Grade 1 Racing Season at Santa Anita they day after Christmas, the photographers were getting winners' circle shots of a Pennsylvania-bred named Unique Bella, a solid candidate for year-end honors for 3-year-old fillies.

The grey daughter of the red-hot sire Tapit from the Unbridled Song mare Unrivaled Belle was bred by Mrs. Malcolm Moran's Brushwood Stable at Malvern, Pa.

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Racing for the Don Alberto Stable and Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Unique Bella took the lead 1/16th of a mile from home and won the $300,000-guaranteed, Grade 1 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on San Anita's main track.

She defeated seven rivals getting the seven furlongs in 1:21.49 seconds on a fast track.

The win for Unique Bella was her fifth of 2017 from six starts with all her successes coming in graded stakes.

Prior to a seventh place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar, Unique Bella and her regular rider, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, took home the trophies from Santa Anita's Grade 3 LA Woman and Santa Ysabella and the Grade 2 Las Virgenes and Santa Ynez Stakes.

The win was Unique Bella's sixth from eight lifetime starts. The La Brea check for $180,000 raised her lifetime purse earnings to $592,400 with her real value as a broodmare still ahead of her.

With apparent knowledge that Unique Bella will run again as a 4-year-old in 2018, Smith told a television interviewer he thinks the filly's future is “around two turns.” If he gets his way, Smith will be aboard her for all the Grade 1 filly and mare stakes Santa Anita cards in 2018.

Jack Van Berg Passes Away

Jack Van BergHall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg succumbed to cancer and congestive heart failure Wednesday morning at Little Rock, Ark. He was 81.

Van Berg, who has been described as “a grizzly bear of a man with a heart of gold,” was inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in 1985, 15 years after his father, Marion Van Berg.

The native of Columbus, Neb., won the Eclipse Award as 1984's outstanding trainer. He lead all trainers in the number of wins nine times in his career and set a record for most wins by a trainer in 1976 with 496. That record stood until 2008.

Van Berg is best remembered for training the great Alysheba, 1988's Horse of the Year and, at the time, the richest race horse with earnings of $6.7 million.

Alysheba won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders' Cup Classic among other major stakes under Van Berg's direction.

While racing mostly in the mid-west and California, he was the first of his profession to win 5,000 races. He presently is fourth on the all-time trainer's list with 6,523 wins.

Van Berg, who had a reputation as a stern task master, was also a successful molders of horse trainers. His proteges include Frank Brothers and the Hall of Famer, Bill Mott.

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