At ceremonies in Florida last month, Unique Bella's connections received the Eclipse Award as the filly sprinter of the year.
On Feb. 10, the daughter of Tapit from the Unbridled Song mare Unbridled Belle who was bred at Mrs. Maxwell Moran's Brushwood Stable at Malvern, Pa., showed she is more than a sprinter and may soon be a possible opponent for the colts and horses in major stake races.
The grey Unique Bella, who became a 4-year-old on New Year's Day, dispatched four rivals in the $200,000, Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes at mile and a 1/16th over Santa Anita's main track with the greatest of ease and then drew heaps of praise from her Hall of Fame jockey.
Speaking of the Don Alberto Stable's color-bearer, jockey Mike Smith said, “I really don't think we've seen how good she can be. I've 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 her).”
As to her future, Smith said, “There are some different things we can do with her because of her size. She probably can step up the boys at some point. She's got a lot to her. She's built more like a colt.”
Before he considers following Smith's plan, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he is considering longer distances for Unique Bella's races starting with the March 17 running of Santa Anita's $400,000, Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes for fillies and mares at a mile and a furlong. “We'll point for that. Who knows what will happen after that?” he asked.
Unique Bella broke on top from the Number 4 stall and never had a worry. She got the first quarter mile in 23.54 seconds and held a lead of 2-1/2 lengths over Majestic Heat and Flavian Prat. Unique Bella's lead was three lengths after a half mile and after six furlongs.
Unique Bella had an eight length advantage at the head of the stretch with — as track announcer Michael Wrona described it — “Smith sitting as still as a statue.”
As the field neared the wire, Smith's stick was still pointing downward in his right hand. Without the rider ever using it, Smith and Unique Bella stopped the timer in 1:43.45 on a fast track to win by nine lengths as the 1 to 10 favorite. Mopotisim, the winner of the Grade 2 La Canada in her last outing, took second money 1-1/4 lengths ahead of Majestic Heat.
The win for Unique Bella was her seventh from nine starts. Santa Anita's check for $120,000 raised her career earnings to $612,400, more than enough to repay her Argentine-based owners the $400,000 they plunked down at Keeneland to get her at the 2015 yearling sale.
Two races later, Hollendorfer sent out Kanthaka to capture the $200,000, Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes to earn ten qualifying points for this year's Kentucky Derby. The 11 to 1 long shot, who was fresh off of his maiden win, was a widening 3-1/2 lengths ahead of Nero getting the seven furlongs in 1:22.62.
Flavian Prat was aboard Kanthaka for West Point Stables, the racing partnership group based in New York. The win was the stable's 100th stakes win. The San Vicente was Prat's second of the afternoon. He piloted Om to win the Grade 3 Thunder Road one race earlier.
At Tampa Bay Downs...
2017 Eclipse Award and Breeders' Cup Turf Mile winner World Approval returned to the track for his 6-year-old season with a half length win in the $175,000, Grade 3 Tampa Bay Stakes at 1-1/16th miles defeating six rivals who finished the race. (Long shots Cheyenne's Colonel and Doctor Mounty fell around the far turn.)
Racing in the colors of Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation at Ocala, Fla., the home bred son of Northern Afleet won his 12th race from 25 lifetime starts with four of those wins coming in Grade 1 company. The big grey earned an additional $100,050 for Mrs. Weber, a former Philadelphia resident, to raise his lifetime earnings over the $3 million mark.
Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez was aboard World Approval for his fourth winning ride in four tries. The gelding, who is trained by Mark Casse, became an international winner when he won Woodbine's $800,000, Grade 1 Turf Mile in September.
Flameaway joined the Kentucky Derby hopefuls when he took the lead early on and then withstood a race-long challenge from Catholic Boy, the winner of Aqueduct's Grade 2 Remsen in December, to win the $200,000, Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes.
Racing in the colors of Kentuckian John C. Oxley, the Mark Casse trainee defeated the 7 to 10 favorite Catholic Boy by 1-1/2 lengths in 1:42.44 on a fast track for the 8-1/2 furlongs to earn 10 Derby qualifying points. Catholic Boy picked up four points for his second place effort to raise his total to 14.
Jose Ortiz, the New York-based Eclipse Award winning rider, took his tack to Oldsmar for the day and came away with a four length win in Tampa Bay's $175,000, Grade 3 Lambholm South Stakes for for fillies and mares at 1-1/16-th miles on the turf astride the Argentine-bred Dona Bruja.
The win, in 1:40.92 on a firm turf course, was the 6-year-old mare's second graded stakes win in the Northern Hemisphere for owner Dom Felipe and trainer Ignacio Correas, IV. She owns the trophy from Arlington Park's 2017 running of the Grade 3 Modesty.
Leonard C. Green's A Different Style came out of the starting gate first and stayed there for a three-length win in the 34th running of the Jimmy Winkfield Stakes, a $150,000 stake for 3-year-olds at seven furlongs.
The race is named for the legendary African American jockey whose plaque hangs in Thoroughbred Racing's Hall of Fame at Saratoga Springs. Winkfield rode His Eminence to win the 1901 Kentucky Derby and then scored the following year in the Derby with Alan-a-Dale.
With Kendrick Caramouche in the saddle for trainer John Servis, the the roan colt by The Factor from Right to Rule defeated six rivals in 1:26.07 over a sloppy and sealed main track for his third lifetime and second in stakes company.
After the race, Servis said, “Going forward, if he comes back in good health, the [$250,000, Grade 3] Bay Shore [April 7] is certainly a possibility. But, we'll take things one day at a time.”
See more Equestrian news at www.TAPintoHorses.net
Find us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/TAPintoHorses/
Sign Up for E-News to get top stories delivered daily to your inbox.