Champion UNIQUE BELLA will attempt to get back to the winner’s circle on Saturday while facing five rivals in the $400,000 Beholder Mile (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
The gray daughter of Tapit has made only two starts thus far this year. She closed out 2017 with a three-quarter length score in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes (G1) on December 26 before capturing the 1 1/16-mile Santa Maria Stakes (G2) on February 10 by nine lengths.
Unique Bella shipped outside of California for the first time last out, traveling to Oaklawn Park for the April 13 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1). Unfortunately, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained four-year-old bobbled at the start over the good, sealed surface and suffered just the third loss of her career.
“It was one of those things,” assistant trainer Dan Ward said. “She’s ready. She got a good post (6), has a good record at this track (7-6-1-0) and a good, versatile running style.”
Jockey Mike Smith has been aboard for all 10 of Unique Bella’s career races and has the call Saturday.
Among those lining up against Unique Bella on Saturday is VALE DORI from trainer Bob Baffert’s shedrow. In an unusual move, Baffert had the six-year-old mare blow out three furlongs in a bullet :35.80 over Santa Anita’s fast dirt on Friday.
“It was just to open her lungs up,” Baffert shrugged. “As of now, she’s running.”
Vale Dori competed in last year’s Beholder Mile only three races back. She faced just two rivals in that June 3 affair, took the lead out of the gate and was caught by champion Stellar Wind on the wire, forced to settle for second by a neck. The multiple Grade/Group 1 winner gets Rafael Bejarano in the irons as Smith, who piloted the Argentinean-bred to a neck second in last July’s Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) and a fifth-placing in the Adoration Stakes (G1) most recently on May 6, sticks with Unique Bella.
Dual Grade 1 heroine PARADISE WOODS tries for her first win since taking the Zenyatta Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita last September by 5 1/4 front-running lengths. The Richard Mandella pupil closed out her sophomore campaign with a nice third in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) and close second in the La Brea behind Unique Bella. The Union Rags filly returned last out on March 24 to be fourth in the Santa Monica Stakes (G2) under returning regular rider Flavien Prat.
MOPOTISM ran third in the La Brea before taking the La Canada Stakes (G2) for trainer Doug O’Neill to kick off her four-year-old campaign on January 13. She placed in both the Santa Maria, also behind Unique Bella, and the Santa Margarita Stakes (G1), before trying turf for the first time in the Gamely Stakes (G1) just a week ago on May 26. The bay daughter of Uncle Mo wheels back here off a subpar, last-of-seven, placing in that contest with Geovanni Franco taking the reins.
German-bred LA FORCE, fourth in both the Santa Margarita and Adoration in her past two, just missed by a neck when third in the La Canada earlier this season. The Paddy Gallagher four-year-old and jockey Drayden Van Dyke round out the Beholder Mile field with Grade 3 winner MUNNY SPUNT, who keeps Kyle Frey aboard for O’Neill.
Two races earlier, seven California-bred sophomore colts and geldings have been entered to go 1 1/8 miles over Santa Anita’s turf in the $200,000 Snow Chief Stakes.