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The big gray filly returns to action this weekend, and you can bet that the eyes of the horse racing world will be upon her. Unique Bella has shown freakish talent throughout her career and will look to continue her dominance in the Grade 1, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar. Oddly enough, the only poor race of her entire career came at Del Mar in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint when she was sent to the front before fading in the stretch to a seventh-place finish. She will be looking for redemption on Sunday, which hopefully leads to redemption at the Breeders’ Cup in November.
The winner of the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes will receive an automatic position in the Longines Distaff this fall at Churchill Downs. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the person who nominated the foal or racehorse. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
The Clement L. Hirsch will be the highlight of the card on Sunday at Del Mar Race Track. On Saturday, the track will also feature the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes which is a “Win and You’re In” for the TwinSpires Sprint. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on August 4 with the Grade 1 Whitney Stakes at Saratoga, which is a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Classic. As usual, a solid field is expected for the race that produced the eventual Classic winner Gun Runner last year.
The full field from the rail out: Bernina Star, Unique Bella, La Force, Turkish Tabby, Shenandoah Queen, and Yuvesti.
#2 Unique Bella – There is no doubt that she is the star of the show, and there is also no doubt that she scared away a lot of her potential competition. The 4-year-old daughter of Tapit comes into this race as the top older female in the country and may be one of the best horses, period, no matter the gender. Two of her three starts this year were runaway victories, while her only loss came in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park, where she nearly fell down after coming out of the gate.
NONE – Unique Bella is a very easy single in this race. Use her strongly and hope for big prices around her in the multi-race wagers.
# 3 La Force – Give her connections credit for taking on Unique Bella once again after losing to her last time out in the Grade 1 Beholder Mile at Santa Anita. She dropped to the back of the pack in that race and was able to close nicely to only be defeated by a little over 2 length, and she was also close to winning the Grade 2 La Canada Stakes, where she was third by only a neck. With a little bit of luck, she can be competitive here.
#6 Yuvetsi – This 4-year-old daughter of Bodemeister picked up a nice win last time out in the $75,000 Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita while stretching out in distance on the dirt for the first time. That win was a bit eye-opening, as she was able to use her early speed to control the race right from the start. The task here is much more daunting, but if Yuvetsi can again use her early speed to get position, then she might have a fighting chance when turning for home.
NONE – It is hard to envision anyone pulling off the upset and beating Unique Bella here. This group just doesn’t match up with her kind of talent.
#5 Shenandoah Queen – This seems like a logical spot for her to try dirt again after a poor effort on the turf last time out. Most of her good races came over the dirt, including a second-place effort two back in the Grade 3 Adoration Stakes at Santa Anita. Her early speed should ensure that she gets a good position, which will be important because she will need to keep the heavily-favored Unique Bella in her sights as they turn for home.
# 4 Turkish Tabby – She looks to move way up in class for this race after running fifth in the Grade 2 Great Lady M Stakes at Los Alamitos last time out. Her early speed should allow her to get decent position at the beginning of the race, but she will also be stretching out in distance for the first time in a while, which will be a question mark. In her last Grade 1 race around two turns, she was sixth in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita.
#1 Bernina Star – She tries Grade 1 company here after a second-place finish last time out in the Santa Lucia. She has experimented a bit on turf lately, but overall, it looks like dirt is her best surface. Her strategy will be to drop to the back of the pack and make one run at the end, with the hope that the pace melts down in front of her.
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