DEL MAR, CA – Don Alberto Stable’s super-filly Unique Bella delivered a strong score once again on Sunday, drawing off easily in the stretch before being geared down late and wiring the field in the Grade 1, $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes at Del Mar.
The Clement L. Hirsch is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Unique Bella receiving an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff at Churchill Downs on Saturday, November 3. Unique Bella competed in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint here at Del Mar, but she finished seventh in her only career off-the-board performance.
Breaking alertly from post 2 under Mike Smith as the heavy 1-9 favorite, Unique Bella was quickly set loose and allowed to relax on the front end through opeing splits of :23.25, :46.80, and 1:11.56. Yuvetsi had kept close watch on the leader while the rest of the field languished several lengths behind, but in the far turn, she was all-out trying in vain to catch her. Weakened before straightening for home, Yuvetsi gave in and Unique Bella seemed destined to win. Smith continued to ride motionless while La Force launched a strong rally and gained nearer with every stride. Smith gave the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee a tap on the shoulder, then continued to ride without pushing her for the best. La Force’s late run made it interesting, finishing just a 1/2-length off of the winner, but in the end, Unique Bella was much the best.
“She ran OK,” Smith said. “This wasn’t her best race, but it was OK. She blew a shoe coming away from there and she was a little uncomfortable. When she heard that other mare (La Force) coming, she surged again. This wasn’t her best, but it was good enough.”
The remaining order of finish was far less eventful and much more spread out. Crossing over 9 lengths behind the top pair, Bernina Star took third over Yuvetsi and Shenandoah Queen, while Turkish Tabby was scratched.
Unique Bella’s win was her eighth in a graded stakes race, her third in a Grade 1 event, and her ninth overall, pushing her record to 12-9-2-0. The 4-year-old daughter of Tapit, out of an Unbridled’s Song mare, has now earned $1,272,400 in her career.
“We take every race seriously and we took this one seriously,” Hollendorfer said. “She won, and we’re happy with the way she did it. Until they hit the wire, you’re always concerned if they’ll get there. She’s been off awhile and we wanted to get a win so we could plan her next race, which either will be back east or here. We’re not sure yet.”
Unique Bella returned $2.20 to win, $2.10 to place, and $2.10 to show. La Force brought back $2.80 to place and $2.40 to show, while Bernina Star paid $2.60 to show.