Don Alberto Stable's Unique Bella was ultra-impressive in Saturday's G2 Santa Maria Stakes, galloping to a nine-length win in the 1 1/16-mile contest. The Tapit filly out of Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle was timed in 1:43.45 over the fast main track at Santa Anita, and jockey Mike Smith hardly had to move aboard the reigning Sprint champion. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Unique Bella became the first filly in 15 years to win the G1 La Brea and then the Santa Maria.
“I really don't think we've seen how good she can be,” Smith said. “I've surely seen how easily she's doing things right now which I think is extremely impressive. I truly believe we haven't gotten to the bottom of it. There could even be more to her. I'm excited to see what the future holds for her, I really am. There are some different things we can do with her too because of her size. She probably can step up to the boys at some point. Who knows because she's not just a one-gutted kind of filly. She's got a lot to her. She's built more like a colt.”
Breaking sharply from her number four post position, Unique Bella made an easy lead going into the Club House turn with Majestic Heat in hot pursuit. At the quarter pole, she opened up three lengths on Majestic Heat and increased that margin with consummate ease, as expressed by track announcer Michael Wrona at the wire:
“Unique Bella, twelve hundred pounds of horsepower, and she's dominated the Santa Maria, from the gate opening.”
A three quarter length winner of the Grade I La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26, Unique Bella was the prohibitive 1-9 favorite in a field of five older fillies and mares and paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10.
Crowned 2017's Eclipse Champion Filly Sprinter, Unique Bella is owned by Don Alberto Stable, which collected $120,000 for the win, increasing her earnings to $712,400. Her overall mark now stands at 9-7-1-0.
“We thought we would be on the lead,” Hollendorfer said, “but Mike (Smith) was talking with me this morning, and we thought that if somebody went real hard or something lie that we'd just try to lay off the pace and see if she would relax, but she got out to the lead and was handling the track very well. I think she really got a hold of the track today.”
In what amounted to a separate race, Mopotism outran Majestic Heat in the final sixteenth of a mile to run second by 1 ¼ lengths.
Ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Mopotism was off at 6-1 and paid $2.80 and $2.10.
Majestic Heat, with Flavien Prat up, finished 9 ½ lengths in front of Shenandoah Queen. Off at 8-1, Majestic Heat paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 23.54, 46.80, 1:10.95 and 1:36.49.
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