August 11, 2020

Uni – 2019 Champion Turf Female

Uni (GB) wins the First Lady S at Keeneland 2019
Uni wins the First Lady in course-record time (Coady Photo/Keeneland)

A Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1) victory propelled Uni to the champion turf female title, giving trainer Chad Brown a sweep of the turf awards led by Horse of the Year Bricks and Mortar.

Uni’s lifetime past performances courtesy of Brisnet

Uni was following a pattern set by several past divisional champions. Royal Heroine (1984) blazed the trail in the inaugural Breeders’ Cup Mile, while Miesque (1987-88) parlayed her Mile double into a pair of Eclipses. The correspondence of Miles to Eclipses isn’t as neat with the subsequent two in this category, Goldikova and Tepin. Goldikova won more Miles (three) than Eclipses (2009-10), while Tepin won more Eclipses (two) than Miles (2015), but the general point remains that a Breeders’ Cup laurel over males carries weight with the electorate.

In 2019, however, the twist was that Uni had to beat a major rival for the divisional championship, Got Stormy, as well as males in the Breeders’ Cup. The dynamic duo produced the first all-female exacta in the Mile, and Uni’s 1 1/2-length margin at Santa Anita eclipsed Got Stormy’s resume.

Uni made only four starts last term, the same workload she carried the year prior, but her performances over both seasons were nearly all summa cum laude. The British-bred, who capped a perfect 2018 in the Matriarch (G1), picked up right where she left off in the June 29 Perfect Sting at Belmont.

Sent off as the 9-5 favorite versus males in the Aug. 10 Fourstardave (G1) at Saratoga, Uni had her five-race winning streak snapped. The More Than Ready mare dropped too far behind the wicked pace, and Got Stormy not only got the crucial first run, but also had a clearer passage. Uni lost momentum in upper stretch as she had to come off the inside and around a sputtering rival, and wound up a non-threatening third behind course record-setting Got Stormy.

Uni’s next two went more smoothly. Responding with a course record of her own in the Oct. 5 First Lady (G1), the chestnut uncorked her typical rally to clock Keeneland’s grassy mile in 1:32.87. The stage was set for a rematch with Got Stormy in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, and Uni gained revenge by accosting her early in the stretch and outkicking her late.

Uni is Brown’s sixth winner in this category, all in the past decade, after Stacelita (2011), Zagora (2012), Dayatthespa (2014), Lady Eli (2017), and Sistercharlie (2018), whose third as the defending champion in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) diminished her hopes of a repeat.

Racing for Michael Dubb, Head of Plains Partners, Robert LaPenta, and Bethlehem Stables, Uni sports a mark of 17-10-2-3, $2,341,872. Dubb and Bethlehem, also co-owners of champion 2-year-old filly British Idiom in another partnership, can look forward to Uni returning in 2020 too.

Uni arrived from France in the midst of her sophomore campaign in 2017, the only year so far that she’s competed over an entire season. For original trainer Fabrice Chappet, she broke her maiden second out over Deauville’s Polytrack and graduated promptly to stakes company. Uni was third versus males in the Prix de la Californie, sixth in the Prix Vanteaux (G3), and beat the boys in the Prix Matchem at Maisons-Laffitte to earn her way stateside.

Third to new stablemates New Money Honey and Sistercharlie in the Belmont Oaks Invitational (G1), Uni came closer next time when runner-up in the Lake Placid (G2). She accomplished her first graded coup in the Sands Point (G2) but ended 2017 with an uncharacteristic fourth in the Queen Elizabeth II (G1), the only time in her U.S. career she’s been out of the trifecta.

Uni signaled she’d play a major role in the turf distaff ranks at four in 2018. After blitzing to an Aqueduct course record of 1:33.42 in the Plenty of Grace over a mile, she shipped west for the Gamely (G1). Unfortunately, Uni spiked a fever and had to be scratched. The illness cost her time once she returned home, and she wasn’t seen again until Saratoga, when edging stablemate Precieuse in the De La Rose. Uni looked far better than a Grade 3 animal in the Noble Damsel (G3), drawing off by 3 3/4 lengths, and duly obliged in the aforementioned Matriarch to record her first Grade 1.

Bred by Haras d’Etreham in Great Britain, Uni brought €40,000 as an Arqana August yearling. The now 6-year-old is out of the Danehill mare Unaided, from the further family of influential sire Invincible Spirit, Irish highweight Chinese White, multiple Australian Group 1 star Pride of Dubai, and Europe’s just-crowned champion, Pinatubo.

Following on the heels of unbeaten Pinatubo’s earning the highest rating for a European juvenile (128) in 25 years, Uni’s Eclipse has made it a sensational couple of days for their tribe.

CHAMPION TURF FEMALE FIRST-PLACE VOTES (TOP 3)
UNI 126
Sistercharlie 61
Got Stormy 33