Unique Bella makes it look easy in Las Virgenes romp

ARCADIA, Calif. – Unique Bella left veteran Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith amazed by her comprehensive win in Sunday’s $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita.

Smith said Unique Bella traveled so easily through the race – first as a stalker and then comfortably on the lead for the final 4 1/2 furlongs – that he never urged her.

“I don’t know if I ever did,” Smith said. “I was trying to keep her from doing too much.

“She was well within herself. I was very happy with the way she settled. I let her do what she wanted.”

Smith did little aboard Unique Bella in the stretch. Unique Bella ($2.20) won the Grade 2 Las Virgenes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile by 8 3/4 lengths, her first start around two turns.

The win left Unique Bella as the leading 3-year-old filly in the nation.

Owned by Don Alberto Stable and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Unique Bella has won 3 of 4 starts and earned $282,400. Unique Bella won a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs by 10 1/4 lengths at Del Mar on Nov. 26 and her stakes debut in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs by 7 1/2 lengths here on Jan. 8.

In the four-runner Las Virgenes, Unique Bella was always within 1 1/2 lengths of the lead. Mopotism led through an opening quarter-mile in 22.82 seconds, but lost her advantage on the backstretch when Smith guided Unique Bella to the front before the half-mile pole with a three-wide move.

“You never expect that, but I was pretty confident when Mike kind of made his move early,” Hollendorfer said. “I knew that he knew he had a lot of horse, so he just went for it and it turned out well.”

Unique Bella led by 2 1/2 lengths on the turn and by five lengths with a furlong remaining. She was timed in 1:35.66.

Mopotism finished second, 1 1/4 lengths in front of Champagne Room, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2016 who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies here last November. Champagne Room finished 10 lengths behind Unique Bella after stalking runner-up Mopotism for the first six furlongs.

“She probably needed the race,” trainer Peter Eurton said. “We could have laid off [Mopotism] and not gone after her. No one was going to beat” Unique Bella.

Miss Southern Miss finished a well-beaten fourth. Mistressofthenight was scratched on Sunday morning.

This was the second consecutive year that Smith and Hollendorfer teamed to win the Las Virgenes. They won the 2016 running with Songbird, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2015 and champion 3-year-old filly of 2016.

Source: Steve Anderson, DRF