Champion UNIQUE BELLA continued her march to November and the Breeders’ Cup World Championships with a half-length victory in the $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (G1) at Del Mar on Sunday.
The Hirsch is part of the Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge series and awarded the winner an all-fees paid berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) on November 3 at Churchill Downs.
Unique Bella took command of the 1 1/16-mile Hirsch under regular jockey Mike Smith and never looked back, setting splits of :23.25, :46.80, 1:11.56 and 1:37.59 before finishing in 1:44.40 over the fast main track.
The Don Alberto Stable colorbearer was chased early by Yuvestsi but it was German-bred La Force who provided the biggest challenge when rallying fast in the lane. That four-year-old filly cut Unique Bella’s four-length margin in the stretch down to just a half-length on the wire, but the champion still held to return $2.20 as the 1-10 favorite.
It was 9 1/4 lengths behind La Force to Bernina Star in third, while 7-1 second choice Yuvetsi followed in fourth. Shenandoah Queen completed the order of finish.
Unique Bella earned an Eclipse Award in 2017 as the champion female sprinter, capturing all but one of her six starts as a sophomore. That one loss came in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1), but the gray daughter of Tapit still did enough in sprints throughout the year – racking up wins in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes (G1), 6 1/2-furlong LA Woman Stakes (G3) and seven-furlong Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) – to earn the award. She also scored in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) going a mile and 1 1/16-mile Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3).
The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee made her four-year-old bow on February 10, posting a nine-length triumph in the Santa Maria Stakes (G2) going 1 1/16 miles, and traveled outside of California for the first time in her career to tackle the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park a month later. Unique Bella finished second in that 8 1/2-furlong affair, and returned to the Golden State to secure victory in the Beholder Mile (G1) on June 2 in her most recent contest.
She’s accumulated $1,272,400 in lifetime earnings to go along with her 12-9-2-0 career line.
Bred in Pennsylvania by Brushwood Stable, Unique Bella is out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unrivaled Belle. That mare won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) and earned more than $1.8 million during her career.