HOT SPRINGS, AR – Red Oak Stable’s homebred Unbridled Mo pulled off a major upset over a heavily-favored Unique Bella in Friday’s Grade 1, $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park.
Breaking from post 2 under the meet’s leading rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., Unbridled Mo raced along the rail into the first turn close behind initial leaders Farrell and Streamline, then had to check when Streamline crossed in front of her towards the rail. Farrell led through initial fractions of :23.41 and :46.94 while Unique Bella rallied to gain position and eventually take command down the backside. Shifting off the rail through the far turn, Unbridled Mo hit the stretch four-wide and chased down the favorite, eventually wrestling away the lead before clearing away to win by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:43.94 for the 1 1/8-mile event over a dirt surface that was downgraded to good (sealed).
“We got a good break,” said Santana, Jr. “I was scared during the first turn when I had to stop her a little bit, but I knew she was coming back. I was sitting fourth, and at the 5/8 (pole), I took her out a little bit, and then she came on pretty good. At the 3/8 (pole), I was just waiting for the turn for home because I didn’t want to move too soon. When I turned for home, I asked her, and her class won out.”
Bet down to 1-5 by the post time, Unique Bella seemed to slip in the soft dirt when the starting gate sprung open and was immediately at a disadvantage. Though she recovered to eventually take the lead down the backside, she wasn’t able to hold off the eventual winner and had to settle for second.
“She squatted in the gate,” Smith said. “I was trying to stand her up. The next thing I knew, they opened the gates, and she squatted back. She totally missed the break. I wish I could have stayed last. If I could have, I would have. She was very strong and very fresh. After she got left, she just wanted to catch up. I could have thrown her down, but I never had to do that, and I wasn’t about to start. It was just unfortunate.”
Fuhriously Kissed took third by a neck past Streamline, with Tiger Moth necking out fifth over Beach Flower. Farrell faded to finish last.
Unbridled Mo’s win was her first in a Grade 1 and her fourth graded stakes score overall. The Todd Pletcher-trained 5-year-old daughter of Uncle Mo now sports a record of 10-7-0-0 with career earnings of $960,880.
“The filly was training extremely well and seemed like she was sitting on a good race,” Pletcher said. “We thought, ultimately, a Grade 1 was sort of the only thing missing on her resume. She’s a very consistent mare. We knew that there’s a very short-priced favorite we had to beat. We felt like if she’d won, even if she was second or third, if would be a positive result. Decided to go ahead and take a shot, and very happy that we did.”
Unbridled Mo returned $11.60 to win, $2.60 to place, and $2.40 to show. Unique Bella brought back $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show, while Fuhriously Kissed paid $6 to show.