Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Beholder Mile quickly developed into a match race as Paradise Woods, under Flavien Prat and Unique Bella, with Mike Smith up, matched strides from the gate to the far turn, whereupon Unique Bella gained a half length advantage a quarter mile out and then coasted to a 2 ¼ length win. Owned by Don Alberto Stable and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Unique Bella, last year’s Eclipse Champion Female Sprinter, stopped the clock in 1:35.60.
“We expected Paradise Woods to go out there like she did and Mike didn’t want to let her get away,” said Hollendorfer. “It’s nice to get her back home and it was nice to have Gary (Stevens) present the trophy.”
Most recently second in the Grade I Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park April 13, Unique Bella was the overwhelming 1-2 favorite in a field of five fillies and mares and paid $3.00, $2.20 and $2.10.
“It was always going to be a little bit of a chess match between me, Vale Dori and Paradise Woods,” said Smith, who has been aboard the 4-year-old Pennsylvania-bred daughter of Tapit in all 11 of her starts. “I was pretty sure that if I got away well, I would go ahead and take it and I figured that Paradise Woods would be the speed today.
“I just have way too much respect for (the owners) to let Paradise Woods just take it and Unique Bella doesn’t like it if you take hold of her either. She likes to take it to the completion and sometimes it can hurt you at the end.
“She’s so talented though, that she puts so much ground between you and the competition that they can’t make it up. You’ve got to literally come home the last quarter in 20 (seconds) to catch her.”
Beholder Mile Replay
Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Unique Bella notched her second career Grade I, to go along with her seven furlong victory over Paradise Woods in the La Brea Stakes on Dec. 26. A seven-time stakes winner (all at Santa Anita), Unique Bella is now 11-8-2-0 overall and with the winner’s check of $240,000, she now has earnings of $1,092,400.
German-bred La Force, who was last after the first half mile, rallied well to be second, finishing some 5 ½ lengths in front of Paradise Woods. Ridden by Drayden Van Dyke, La Force was off at 24-1 and paid $7.00 and $3.00.
Paradise Woods tired badly, but finished 4 ½ lengths in front of Vale Dori, who was never a factor. Ridden by Flavien Prat, Paradise Woods was off at 5-2 and paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race were 22.51, 44.96, 1:09.34 and 1:22.15.