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Racing Dudes Three Stars of the Week: Unique Bella Crushes in Grade 2 Santa Maria

Jockey Mike Smith guides Unique Bella to winner's circle after winning Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Maria Stakes (© BENOIT PHOTO)

It was hard to pick just three horses this week. Santa Anita, Tampa Bay Downs, Gulfstream Park, and Oaklawn all held big races that produced worthy Three Stars of the Week-type horses. Because of that, we’ve added an “Honorable Mention” section to this week’s post. Let’s take a look back at a tremendous weekend of action. Also as a special bonus to this week’s post, here is a Cheltenham Betting Guide 2018 for the upcoming Cheltenham Festival in the UK.

Honorable Mentions: Flameaway, World Approval, Dona Bruja, Red Ruby, and Om

Risen Star Wagering Guide

1. Unique Bella

The talent that this filly possesses is almost scary. Unique Bella stretched back out to two turns on Saturday in the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes and buried her competiton by 9 lengths. The 4-year-old filly jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, cruising to victory in wire-to-wire fashion without being asked for her best. She will now point towards either the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Stakes at Santa Anita or the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. It’s hard to see this filly losing anytime soon.

2. Heart to Heart

It was a joy to see the warrior Heart to Heart finally get his first Grade 1 victory in Saturday’s Gulfstream Park Turf Stakes. He broke poorly in his last start, which cost him all shot at winning, but on Saturday, he broke like a champion and went straight to the lead. Once he’s alone in front, he becomes very tough to pass. He turned for home with a 1-length lead, then held all challengers at bay to win by a diminishing neck in the end. There will be several options for his next start, as this classy horse just keeps running solid races.

3. Kanthaka

For weeks, trainer Bob Baffert was said to be pointing multiple horses towards the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, but in the end, it was trainer Jerry Hollendorfer who unleashed a beast in this race. Kanthaka was coming off of a maiden special weight win in December, but he stepped his game up dramatically to win the San Vicente by 3 1/4 lengths. After stalking a very hot early pace, Kanthaka tipped out at the top of the lane and simply dominated in the stretch. The win was visually impressive and makes you wonder if a Kentucky Derby prep race is in his future.

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