Unique Bella back on track
ARCADIA, Calif. – Unique Bella tagged along with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s stable through the spring and summer, a bench player with a stellar portfolio.
From Santa Anita to Del Mar and back to Santa Anita, Unique Bella did not race while recovering from sore shins that forced her out of training in March, weeks after her third consecutive stakes win. Instead, Unique Bella was rested and slowly brought back to training for a fall campaign.
Unique Bella made a successful comeback Sunday with an emphatic win in the Grade 3 L.A. Woman Stakes at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita. The slow days of summer are over, replaced by the anticipation of a start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
Monday, Hollendorfer struggled briefly to find a way to describe Unique Bella’s condition the morning after the race, finally settling on “perfect.”
“She came out of the race in very good condition and we’re grateful for that,” Hollendorfer said.
As the 1-5 favorite, Unique Bella was expected to win the $100,345 L.A. Woman Stakes against five rivals. Ridden by Mike Smith, she broke a stride slowly and was third for the first half-mile. Smith urged her into contention with a three-wide move. Unique Bella won by 3 1/2 lengths in her first start against older fillies and mares.
“Mike was very happy with the way she did what she had to do,” Hollendorfer said. “I guess we have a little more maturity there.”
Unique Bella, who is owned by Don Alberto Stables, has won 5 of 6 starts and earned $402,400.
The sore shin, detected in late March, kept her out of the major stakes for 3-year-old fillies in the spring and summer.
“We had to do that for the horse,” Fernando Diaz, who represented Don Alberto Stables, said in the winner’s circle on Sunday. “We’re happy we gave her the time. She proved it today.”
Last winter, Unique Bella won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs in January in her third start, the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at a mile in February, and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles in March.
The BC Filly and Mare Sprint is run at seven furlongs, and will be the toughest test of Unique Bella’s career. Hollendorfer, never the sort to make bold predictions, was looking forward to the race on Monday morning.
“She looks like she’ll be able to do something in there,” he said.
Gun Runner tops BC works
Gun Runner, the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic, led a roster of prominent potential Breeders’ Cup participants who worked on Monday morning at Santa Anita.
Trainer Steve Asmussen was in town for the day and watched Gun Runner go five furlongs in 1:01.60. The work was the second of four planned for Gun Runner here at Santa Anita before he heads to Del Mar for his final work prior to the $6 million Classic on Nov. 4.
Gun Runner worked at about 7 a.m., and went by himself with exercise rider Angel Garcia aboard. It was a textbook work for a colt who’s as steady as a metronome.
“Looks like Gun Runner,” Asmussen said. “Good to see. He’s a very special horse. He really is.
“He’s playing coming off the track like you’d expect him to act before the work. That’s who he is, thank goodness.”
Asmussen said Gun Runner would work in company next week, and that Florent Geroux – his regular jockey – would be in town for the work.
Also working on Monday were Drefong, who is readying to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 4, and Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman, who will be taking on elders in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff on Nov. 3.
Both Drefong and Abel Tasman are trained by Bob Baffert, who sent each horse a half-mile under Martin Garcia. Drefong worked in company, Abel Tasman went by herself.
Drefong sped through his work in 47.20 seconds.
“Just cruising,” Baffert said. “Went really nice. He couldn’t be doing any better.”
Abel Tasman was working for the first time since finishing second after breaking slowly and making an early move in the Cotillion at Parx. She was timed in 48.60 seconds.
“Just a little maintenance drill,” Baffert said.
Castellano to ride West Coast
Javier Castellano has picked up the mount on West Coast for the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 4 at Del Mar, trainer Bob Baffert said Monday.
Mike Smith rode West Coast to his recent victories in the Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby, but he will ride defending race winner Arrogate in the Classic.
Baffert said the decision to go with Castellano was made after consulting with Gary West, who owns West Coast with his wife, Mary.
West Coast on Sunday worked a half-mile in 48.80 seconds in his first drill since the Pennsylvania Derby. “He looks great,” Baffert said. Baffert has four potential starters in the Classic. In addition to Castellano on West Coast and Smith on Arrogate, he said Martin Garcia would ride Collected and Drayden Van Dyke would be on Mubtaahij.
Unique Bella easily won her comeback race in the L.A. Woman.