Unique Bella much the best in Santa Ynez

 Unique Bella’s easy win in Sunday’s $200,000 Santa Ynez Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita left trainer Jerry Hollendorfer in awe of her effort – and looking forward to more prestigious races in coming months.
Unique Bella romps by 7 1/2 lengths under Mike Smith in the Santa Ynez for 3-year-old fillies.

Unique Bella ($4) won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs by 7 1/2 lengths with no urging in the final sixteenth by jockey Mike Smith.

“I saw her coming around the turn and she did it so easy,” Hollendorfer said. “It’s hard to believe she could be that good.”

Unique Bella was timed in 1:22.21 on a fast track that held some moisture from early weekend rains.

Smith had Unique Bella in fourth after a quarter-mile, tracking pacesetter Resilient Humor, a 30-1 shot who set fractions of 22.33 seconds for a quarter-mile and 44.58 for a half-mile.

“We want to jump and go for the lead,” Hollendorfer said. “She broke a tad slow so Mike decided to set behind and that was a good decision.”

Unique Bella raced four-wide entering the turn and took the lead on the turn. She led by five lengths with a furlong to go.

Hollendorfer swept the exacta. It Tiz Well, a 12-1 shot who beat maidens by 10 lengths at Los Alamitos on Dec. 18, closed from last to finish second, 2 1/2 lengths in front of Shane’s Girlfriend, the 4-5 favorite.

Shane’s Girlfriend was beaten for the first time in her third start in the Santa Ynez. She won a maiden race here in late October and the $400,000 Delta Princess Stakes in Louisiana in November. Shane’s Girlfriend was beaten 10 lengths by Unique Bella.

Princess Karen was fourth, while Resilient Humor faded in the stretch to finish last. Carrie, Go On Mary, Noted and Quoted, and Sandy’s Surprise were scratched early Sunday.

Noted and Quoted, the winner of the Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes in October, was withdrawn because of the wet track, trainer Bob Baffert said. Noted and Quoted was seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Unique Bella was second in her debut here last June and did not race again until late November, when she won a maiden race at 6 1/2 furlongs by  10 1/4 lengths at Del Mar.

Owned by Don Alberto Stable of Chile and Kentucky, Unique Bella was purchased for $400,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. Unique Bella, by Tapit, has won 2 of 3 starts and earned $162,400.

Hollendorfer said after Sunday’s race that he will consider Unique Bella for the $200,000 Las Virgenes Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at a mile on Feb. 5. The Grade 2 Las Virgenes is on the schedule of Champagne Room, the winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies.

In the long term, Hollendorfer considers Unique Bella to be a candidate for the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks on April 8 and the $1 million Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs on May 5.

Source: DRF