Newly crowned champion Unique Bella made a mockery of the GII Santa Maria, going gate-to-wire in what was the equivalent of a paid workout. Seizing the early advantage, the “TDN Rising Star” maintained a comfortable lead as she loped along through early fractions of :23.54 and :46.80. Turning for home in front with Hall of Famer Mike Smith still motionless in the irons, the 1-9 chalk effortlessly sailed further clear in the lane to win as she pleased.
“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.”
“I think we'll look at the next race here [GI Santa Margarita S. Mar. 17] and try to point for that, and then who knows what will happen after that,” winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “We'll look at the Santa Margarita for sure. There are other races around the same time. We'd look at the [GI] Apple Blossom [at Oaklawn Apr. 13], but I'd like to stay home if we can.”
Dominant winner of the GII Santa Ynez S., GII Las Virgenes S. and GIII Santa Ysabel S. last term, Unique Bella was subsequently sidelined and returned as good as ever with a facile win in the GIII LA Woman S. Oct. 8. Fading to seventh as the favorite in the GI Breeders' Cup F/M Sprint Nov. 4, the $400,000 KEESEP buy returned to winning ways in the GI La Brea S. Dec. 26, a victory which clinched her the Eclipse statue as 2017's top female sprinter.
Unique Bella's dam Unrivaled Belle would be a champion herself had she not had her career-best year in 2010, which was Hall of Famer Zenyatta's final year on the racetrack. The gray scored back-to-back victories in that term's GIII Rampart S. and GII La Troienne S. and finished second in her next three starts, all of which were in Grade I company. She closed out her 2010 season with a career high, winning the GI Breeders' Ladies Classic over 2010 champion 3-year-old filly and race favorite Blind Luck (Pollard's Vision) and 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (Saint Liam).
Making just two starts in 2011, Unrivaled Belle was retired and sent through the ring at Keeneland November, where she summoned $2.8 million from Brushwood Stable. She went back through the Keeneland ring in November 2016 and topped the sale on a final bid of $3.8 million from Mandy Pope's Whisper Hill Farm. A daughter of MGSW Queenie Belle (Bertrando), the 12-year-old mare has a 3-year-old filly named Relicario (Malibu Moon), who hammered for $550,000 KEESEP purchase. Unrivaled Belle failed to get in foal to Bernardini the following year, but produced the filly Unrivaled Princess (Tapit) in 2017 and foaled a Tapit colt Jan. 28 of this year.
Saturday, Santa Anita Park
SANTA MARIA S.-GII, $200,000, SA, 2-10, 4yo/up, f/m, 1 1/16m, 1:43.45, ft.
1–UNIQUE BELLA, 122, f, 4, by Tapit
1st Dam: Unrivaled Belle (GISW, $1,854,706),
by Unbridled's Song
2nd Dam: Queenie Belle, by Bertrando
3rd Dam: Lady Argyle, by Don B.
'TDN Rising Star' ($400,000 Ylg '15 KEESEP). O-Don Alberto
Stable; B-Brushwood Stable (PA); T-Jerry Hollendorfer; J-Mike
- Smith. $120,000. Lifetime Record: Ch. Female Sprinter-US, GISW,
9-7-1-0, $712,400. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*.
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.2–Mopotism, 124, f, 4, Uncle Mo–Peppy Rafaela, by Bernardini.
($135,000 Wlg '14 KEENOV; $200,000 Ylg '15 FTSAUG;
$300,000 2yo '16 FTFMAR). O-Reddam Racing LLC; B-Frank T.
Batten (KY); T-Doug F. O'Neill. $40,000.3–Majestic Heat, 124, m, 6, Unusual Heat–Chi Chi Nette, by
Ole'. O-M. Auerbach LLC, Bardy Farm & Ron McCauley;
B-Madeline Auerbach & Barry Abrams (CA); T-Richard E.
Margins: 9, 1 1/4, 9HF. Odds: 0.10, 6.30, 8.20.
Also Ran: Shenandoah Queen, Kathy's Song.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.