ARCADIA, CA – Don Alberto Stable’s Unique Bella made a fantastic return to the track after an eight-month layoff, sweeping away with Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 L.A. Woman Stakes at Santa Anita.
Breaking slowly from post 5 under Mike Smith as the heavy 1/9 favorite, Unique Bella stalked three-deep as Princess Karen set opening splits of :22.32 and :45.32. Making her move in the far turn, Unique Bella drew clear under a moderate hand ride to win the 6 1/2-furlong main track event by 3 1/2 lengths in a final time of 1:16.66.
“What I found interesting today was that she settled really nicely,” Smith said. “In the past, I don’t think she would have done that. She would have just run on by and opened up by 5, 6, or 7, and coasted on home. Today, she rated nicely and I had horse left. When I picked her up at the 1/8 pole, she really got into the bridle. I got after her one time just to run through the wire.
“Sometimes, things happen for a reason. I think she got a whole lot more out of this than if she had broke 2 in front. I don’t think she would have gotten anything out of that type of race. What are you going to do? Get after her when she’s already 6 or 7 in front? This race set up better for her to get more out of it.”
Princess Karen faded in the stretch but held on for second by 3/4 of a length. Cuddle Alert necked out third over Bad Ju Ju. Lunar Empress and Dis Smart Cat completed the order of finish. Sturdy One was scratched.
With the return to victory lane, Unique Bella’s record now stands at 6-5-1-0. The 3-year-old daughter of Tapit improved her career earnings to $402,400, and now, the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee will target the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4.
“It’s been a period there to wait, but you have to be patient,” said Don Alberto Stables’ representative Fernando Diaz. “We had to skip the Santa Anita Oaks and then the Kentucky Oaks. Everybody said we had the horse to beat. It was painful, to be honest, but you have to do what’s best for the horse. She’s sound now and the future looks bright. It’s great to have her back.”
Unique Bella returned $2.40 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. Princess Karen brought back $3.20 to place and $2.20 to show, while Cuddle Alert paid $4.20 to show.