With Abel Tasman bound for Saratoga, fellow champion Unique Bella ranks as the class of the field by far in Sunday’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch (G1) at Del Mar. Her superior resume translates into a 16.7-point advantage in BRIS Prime Power, and her five opponents must hope for a regression to have an upset chance in this “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1).
Although Unique Bella earned her Eclipse Award as the champion female sprinter, largely on the strength of her season-ending victory in the La Brea (G1), the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee is four-for-five around two turns. Unique Bella’s only loss in a route came in the Apple Blossom H. (G1) two starts back at Oaklawn Park, where she flubbed the start, recovered well, but felt her exertions late and wound up second to Unbridled Mo. She’s won her other two outings at this 1 1/16-mile trip, the 2017 Santa Ysabel (G3) over Abel Tasman and the February 10 Santa Maria (G2) by nine lengths from Mopotism.
Unique Bella comes off another clear success in the June 2 Beholder Mile (G1), and the daughter of Tapit and 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (G1) heroine Unrivaled Belle will go off as the heavy odds-on choice here. Hall of Famer Mike Smith will guide the 123-pound highweight from post 2, his main task being to coax her into not pulling too fiercely. Failure to settle early is her one weakness, but it’s questionable whether that could come into play against overmatched opponents in this spot.
Beholder Mile runner-up La Force was gaining on Unique Bella, cutting her margin virtually in half to 2 1/4 lengths. While theoretically the extra sixteenth should help, the 2-for-20 German-bred tends to leave herself too much to do. And her closest brush to a stakes score – her third in the La Canada (G2) back in January, beaten two heads by Mopotism – still puts her some way behind ‘Bella.
The Hronis Racing/John Sadler tandem is double-handed with the intriguing Yuvetsi (second in Prime Power) and Shenandoah Queen. Yuvetsi prospered on the stretch-out to 1 1/16 miles in the June 22 Santa Lucia, forcing the pace and drawing off to post a new career high. Because that was only her second try around two turns, and first dirt route, the four-year-old Bodemeister filly is unexposed in these conditions. Shenandoah Queen, who was supplemented for $3,000, earned her signature win in last summer’s Tranquility Lake on this track. Winless since, the Henny Hughes mare has thrown in some clunkers, but her last dirt start was one of her better ones – a half-length loss to Fault in the Adoration (G3).
Bernina Star, a rallying second to Yuvetsi in the Santa Lucia, has yet to run a bad race at Del Mar. The Jim Cassidy pupil sports a 4-1-1-2 mark over the track, including a troubled third in the 2017 Torrey Pines (G3). Also entered is Unique Bella’s stablemate Turkish Tabby, who takes blinkers off for Hollendorfer. Her lone stakes credit is a photo-finish loss in the 2017 Camilla Urso at Golden Gate, and she’s been up the track in the Santa Margarita (G1) and most recently the Great Lady M (G2).