One of the biggest sporting events in the world is without question the Breeders’ Cup. A gathering of “the best of the best” in every division of Thoroughbred racing, the Cup is the place to be for all the “big” horses. That’s exactly why one particular runner should fit right in.
Unique Bella is an aptly named three-year old filly with many “big” attributes. The first thing that strikes any onlooker is indeed her size. Standing at a good 17 hands, this daughter of Tapit is strikingly large.
“She is very tall and very broad,” says trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “There have been a lot of good horses with good size and we think it certainly can give you an advantage.”
“She is as big as she looks on television,” says her jockey Mike Smith. “I think her size works to her advantage, but she is very talented too.”
The veteran rider is spot on with his assessment of Bella. Five wins in six lifetime starts with a second place in her career debut means this granddaughter of Unbridled’s Song has been formidable. Four for four this year, Bella was a slam dunk for a Kentucky Oaks start before shin issues sidelined her in March. Resting throughout the summer after impressing in three consecutive graded stakes wins to start the year, the time off may make folks a little less familiar with this filly.
“We did the right thing for her after the injury,” says Hollendorfer. “We hated to miss the Oaks and some of the other three-year old races, but we had to think about her long term well being. Bella is back at 100% now and we are very thankful for that.”
Considered more of a classic distance runner, Unique Bella will be cutting back in distance for her run in the Breeders’ Cup. With the bloodlines of a route runner, some may have been surprised that her hall of fame conditioner is pointing her to the Filly and Mare Sprint. At this time, Hollendorfer thinks the 7 furlong distance is exactly what she needs.
“We don’t have enough foundation yet to run her in the Distaff,” says Hollendorfer. “She is fit enough for the sprint, but coming off the injury we have not had enough time to get her ready for longer distances. We hope to get her back to classic distance races, just not right now.”
Bella proved she is ready for the sprint distance as she easily took the L.A. Woman Stakes at Santa Anita on October 4. Covering the 6 ½ furlongs in 1:16.66 under Mike Smith, this Don Alberto Stable owned filly looked much the best. Providing a big building block, the Santa Anita race has Hollendorfer pleased as he heads south to Del Mar.
“We know the Cup will be much tougher, but She will be in even better shape by then,” says Hollendorfer. “She likes Del Mar and is very comfortable there. That is where she trained all summer and that is where she broke her maiden.”
Unique Bella is a sizeable young lady with a ton of track talent, but she is also special in another way. Beautifully marked with shades of gray from both mother’s side (Unrivaled Belle) and father (Tapit), Bella is striking to say the least. The Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint will no doubt be her toughest challenge, but Bella most certainly belongs.