ARCADIA, CA – Don Alberto Stable’s superstar Unique Bella was undoubtedly the best on Saturday, cruising home to an easy victory over four other foes in the Grade 1, $400,000 Beholder Mile Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
Bursting forth from the far outside as the heavy 1-2 favorite under Mike Smith, Unique Bella refused to let Paradise Woods have her way alone on the front end early. The two Grade 1 winners raced heads apart through opening splits of :22.51, :44.96, and 1:09.34. Midway through the far turn, Smith let out a notch in the reins, and that was all she wrote. Drawing clear with relative ease, Smith geared her down in the final 1/16, allowing the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee to cross the wire at a jog by 2 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:35.60 for the mile-long main-track event.
“It was always going to be a little bit of a chess match between me, Vale Dori, and Paradise Woods,” Smith said. “I was just going to see who broke better than the others and who was going to take the initiative. I was pretty sure that if I got away well, I would go ahead and take it, and I figured that Paradise Woods would be the speed today. I just have way too much respect for Don Alberto to let Paradise Woods just take it, and Unique Bella doesn’t like it if you take hold of her, either.
“She’s very unique… Bella.”
La Force came flying late with a rally to take second, 5 1/2 lengths ahead of a burned-out Paradise Woods. Vale Dori, second by a nose in last year’s edition, didn’t fire well at the start and never recovered, taking fourth by 3/4 of a length over Munny Spunt to complete the order of finish. Munny Spunt’s stablemate Mopotism was scratched after having run just last week in the Grade 1 Gamley Stakes, where she finished seventh over the turf.
Unique Bella’s win was her second Grade 1 score (following the La Brea Stakes last December) and her seventh graded victory overall. The 4-year-old daughter of Tapit improved her career record to 11-8-2-0, and with the winner’s share of $240,000, became racing’s newest millionaire with earnings now at $1,092,400.
“First and foremost, I have to say that the owners came in from Chile this morning and were able to see her for the first time run here in the Beholder,” said Fernando Diaz, representing Don Alberto Stable. “To see their own filly win, and so aggressively, was exciting for them, so I’m very excited as well. They wish there were more Grade 1s here at Santa Anita because she loves it here and going two turns here was worth it.”
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, who piloted the Spendthrift Farms-owned Beholder to 12 of her 18 career wins, presented the winning connections with the trophy while wearing the Spendthrift silks.
“We expected Paradise Woods to go out there like she did, and Mike didn’t want to let her get away,” Hollendorfer said. “It’s nice to get her back home and it was nice to have Gary present the trophy.”
Unique Bella returned $3 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. La Force brought back $7 to place and $3 to show, while Paradise Woods paid $2.10 to show.