Una Bella d'Oro: Don Alberto's New Golden Girl

Three-time GI winner Unique Bella in the Beholder Mile S. | Benoit Photography

It's a toss-up, really, as to who made the bigger splash in 2017–the Don Alberto Corporation itself, or their superstar filly Unique Bella (Tapit).

Three years ago, Don Alberto Corporation continued their traditional annual shopping spree at the fall breeding stock sales, spending a combined $8.3 million at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton, plus an additional $3.35 million in partnership purchases at the Keeneland November Sale.

Meanwhile, their $400,000 2015 Keeneland September purchase Unique Bella shone bright as a 3-year-old with four consecutive graded stakes wins and a later victory in the GI La Brea S., earning Don Alberto Stable their first Grade I win in the U.S., as well as an Eclipse Award for champion female sprinter.

No matter who stole the show, Don Alberto has defined itself as a force both at the sales and on the track in the United States, and Unique Bella played a major role in establishing this reputation.

“It's very obvious that Unique Bella was the one that put Don Alberto on the map and put our silks out there,” Don Alberto's Executive Director Fabricio Buffolo said. “She won the La Brea S. as a 3-year-old, and then coming back at four, the Beholder Mile S. and the Clement Hirsch S. So three Grade Is, including the first Grade I for Don Alberto.”

The daughter of champion sire Tapit retired in the summer of 2018 as a millionaire with eight graded stakes wins and two Eclipse awards to her credit. The towering gray filly was a fan favorite throughout her career and a top earner for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. She was sent to Don Alberto's new farm in Lexington upon retirement. The former 440-acre Vinery Farm was purchased by Don Alberto in 2013.

The next year, she was bred to top Darley stallion Medaglia d'Oro, the sire of 25 individual Grade I winners including Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, dual Eclipse winner Songbird and Canadian Horse of the Year Wonder Gadot.

This January, the 6-year-old mare delivered her first foal.

Buffolo said that the foaling went perfectly and that their team is now ecstatic with the bright young filly.

“Her foaling was good, and Unique Bella was nice and kind to the foal,” he said. “We think she's an outstanding filly. She has plenty of scope and she's definitely growing the right way.”

The youngster comes from a family of powerhouse mares, and Buffolo said this one looks to fit that mold.

“She's a pretty tall filly already,” he said. “She has plenty of leg. Soon we're going to be looking to wean her. So it's another step for her, but she's a really good filly with a good temperament and we expect great things from her.”

The foal has been named, but where she might end up is still unknown.

“We named her Una Bella d'Oro,” Buffolo said. “We'll see, she might go to the sale and she might not.”

The filly, who's name translates to 'a beautiful golden one' in Italian, won't live up to the “golden” part of her name in respect to her coat color, as she is developing her mother's bright dapple gray coat more every day.

Buffolo reflected upon Unique Bella's racing career and how her personality has changed as she transitioned into motherhood.

“On the track, you could see from her workouts…she wanted to go fast and there was no holding her back,” he said. “She just wanted to go and go and go. And that's definitely a trait that is good to see on the good horses, right? They want to go no matter what.”

He continued, “I was involved with Royal Delta as well, and you see that with some of those mares, sometimes they want their own way and it's whatever they want and you need to adjust to it. So Unique Bella is like that, but to be honest, she has settled quite a bit as a mom. She's really quiet and gets along with her peers. She's been pretty easy as a broodmare.”

Unique Bella has checked back in foal to two-time Horse of the Year Curlin for next year.

It's an exciting time for the Don Alberto Corporation. Since their first expansion to the States in 2013, they are now starting to see some of the first products of their hard work.

“The engine has started working,” Buffolo said. “We know the mares and know more about how they are producing. We are getting better at matings because we know what we can do with them.”

While Don Alberto is still a relatively new name in the U.S., the corporation has been an international powerhouse for many years.

Their Chilean location, Haras Don Alberto, was founded in 1987. Liliana Solari and her son Carlos Heller Solari are the driving forces behind the business.

“Miss Liliana has a passion for horses and always loved the breeding,” Buffolo said. “She had a few good mares from her father, Alberto, and she started breeding on her own in Chile. It's a long tradition there for them and it's a big operation nowadays.”

Haras Don Alberto has leased a number of stallions for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season including Bluegrass Cat, Fusaichi Pegasus, Stevie Wonderboy, and Proud Citizen. They are also involved with WinStar's Tourist (Tiznow) and the red-hot Constitution (Tapit).

Don Alberto Corporation is a subsidiary of Bethia Holdings, which holds interests in retail, television, health care, agriculture, and a variety of other businesses. They also own the local Chilean racetrack Club Hipico de Santiago.

The expansion to their United States location was all in pursuit of Don Alberto's ultimate goal.

“The goal is to have successful horses in Chile, and then hopefully in the U.S.,” Buffolo said. “[The goal is] that they can be competitive anywhere.”

Their first U.S. Grade I winner in Unique Bella was one of the first fulfillments of that goal, and she will always be a favorite for the Solari family.

“Miss Liliana's favorite thing is to bring carrots to Unique Bella,” Buffolo said. “They have a very strong emotional connection to the horses. They're passionate not only about the breeding and racing, but about the animals as a whole.”

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