June 24, 2024

Unique Bella hits the road for potentially wet Apple Blossom

Unique Bella scores an effortless victory under jockey Mike Smith in the Santa Maria Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, February 10, 2018 © BENOIT PHOTO

Though the country’s reigning female sprint champion, Unique Bella is three-for-three around two turns and will be an odds-on favorite to add a fourth as the 123-pound highweight Friday in the $700,000 Apple Blossom H. (G1) at Oaklawn Park.

Exiting a scintillating nine-length win in the Santa Maria (G2), Unique Bella will have some obstacles to overcome in the 1 1/16-mile Apple Blossom. Friday’s race marks her first start outside of her Southern California base, and if weather forecasts are correct she could also be encountering an off track for the first time. Regular jockey Mike Smith is in for the ride.

Hoping to keep pace, at least for awhile, will be Farrell, but the multiple Grade 2 winner’s participation could be in jeopardy if the track is wet as she fared rather poorly in last year’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) and in the February 17 Bayakoa (G3), both contested in the slop.

Four-time stakes winner Unbridled Mo has some tactical foot, but will undoubtedly be trying to run down the favorite from mid-pack. After two early-season wins in the Houston Ladies Classic (G3) and Doubledogdare (G3) last year, the Todd Pletcher trainee was out the remainder of the year. She was fourth in her February 19 comeback in the Royal Delta (G3) at Gulfstream won by Martini Glass, who came back to win the Azeri (G3) at Oaklawn.

A sub-par fourth in the Azeri was the Illinois-bred Streamline, who had taken the Bayakoa in her previous start. The six-year-old mare has placed in each of the last two Apple Blossoms behind champions Forever Unbridled and Stellar Wind.

Tiger Moth won this year’s Houston Ladies Classic in a 17-1 upset two back, but was a dull fourth in the Azeri despite having a solid pace to run at. The field is rounded out by longshots Fuhriously Kissed and Beach Flower.