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ARCADIA, Calif. (Jan. 8, 2017)—Unique Bella demolished four rivals in taking Sunday’s Grade 2, $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes at Santa Anita by 7 ½ lengths under Mike Smith. Assuming command three furlongs from home, Unique Bella’s only race from that point to the wire was with the clock, which stopped at 1:22.21 for seven furlongs. A rousing 10 ¼ length maiden winner in her second start on Nov. 26 at Del Mar, she provided trainer Jerry Hollendorfer with his second consecutive win in the Santa Ynez and she already has fans and media alike wondering if she could be as good as her 4-year-old stablemate, superstar filly Songbird.
“I’m just blessed, that’s all I can say,” said Smith when asked if he thought Unique Bella might be as good as soon-to-be two time Eclipse Champion Songbird. “Now, it’s more reasonable to compare her (to Songbird). Again, she’s very, very talented but with room to grow. Hopefully with each step, she’ll get smarter about certain things.
“When I saw everyone else send, I thought it was a good time to take a hold of her and see what happens. It didn’t seem to bother her. When we hit the far turn, it was like she was breathing different air. The decisions I make are quick, but you have to make it all seem casual…”
Although she had been odds-on throughout the post parade, Unique Bella ended up going off at even money in the short field of 3-year-old fillies, as a massive amount of money to win came in on eventual third place finisher Shane’s Girlfriend. As a result, Unique Bella paid $4.00, $2.60 and $2.10.
Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Unique Bella, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Tapit, from the Unbridled’s Song mare Unrivaled Belle, is now two for three and with the winner’s share of $120,000, has earnings of $162,400.
“Today, she showed that she’s brilliant,” said Hollendorfer. “We thought she’d jump out of there a little better. I thought she would be close to the lead. Mike used his judgement, got behind and then got to the outside, so it worked out well…We purposely waited this long with her and pointed towards this race. I don’t know if we’ve seen all there is to Unique Bella, but I’ll ask Mike.”
Also trained by Hollendorfer and a 10-length maiden special weight winner in her second start on Dec. 18 at Los Alamitos, It Tiz Well made a good run through the lane to be second, 2 ½ lengths in front of Shane’s Girlfriend.
Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, It Tiz Well was off at 12-1 and paid $5.80 and $2.60.
Trained by Doug O’Neill and ridden by Flavien Prat, Shane’s Girlfriend was shortening up off a 13 ¼ length win in the one mile Grade III Delta Downs Princess Stakes on Nov. 19, but was never a threat to the winner today. Off at 4-5, she finished 2 ½ lengths in front of Princess Karen and paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race, which was run on a main track that had been upgraded to fast, were 22.33, 44.58 and 1:09.28.
Santa Anita will open for a five-day week on Thursday with first post time at 1 p.m. Admission gates will open at 11 a.m.
MIKE SMITH, UNIQUE BELLA, WINNER: “She was a little aggressive in the gate and she was off a tad slow. I probably could have moved her, set her up a bit differently in order for her to break better, but I was scared to do that and make her react and do something I wouldn’t want her to do.
“When I saw everyone else send, I thought it was a good time to take a hold of her and see what happens. It didn’t seem to bother her. When we hit the far turn, it was like she was breathing different air.
“The decisions I make are quick, but you have to make it all seem casual. Otherwise, it gets to be too quick, too fast and you can react too quickly yourself and make matters worse. You have to always be prepared for Plan B and Plan C if need be.
“Now, it’s more reasonable to compare her (to champion, 4-year-old filly Songbird). Again, she’s very, very talented but with room to grow. Hopefully with each step, she’ll get smarter about certain things. I’m just blessed, that’s all I can say.”
FLAVIEN PRAT, FAVORED SHANE’S GIRLFRIEND, THIRD: “She broke well, we broke on top, but we got pressure right away from the inside and the outside. I thought we could be second, but we weren’t going to beat the winner today.”
JERRY HOLLENDORFER, UNIQUE BELLA, WINNER: “Well, I’ve always liked her. Today, she showed that she’s brilliant. We thought she’d jump out of there a little better. I thought she would be close to the lead. Mike used his judgement, got behind and then got to the outside so it worked out well and our other filly also got Grade 2 placed, so we’re very pleased right now.
“We’ll relax a little bit and see where we go next. We purposely waited this long with her and pointed towards this race. I don’t know if we’ve seen all there is to Unique Bella but I’ll ask Mike.”
Source: Santa Anita Park
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