Tapit filly the new darling of American racing
Unique Bella's dam Unrivaled Belle in the ring at Keeneland last November
PICTURE: Keeneland/Photos by Z Well-bred Tapit filly the new darling of US racing By Martin Stevens 12:22AM 6 FEB 2017
AMERICAN racing looks to have another exceptional female talent to enjoy, one who is living up to her illustrious pedigree.
Unique Bella – a three-year-old Tapit filly out of Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic heroine Unrivaled Belle – cruised to a near nine-length victory in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday.
Her three rivals included Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Champagne Room, who was left toiling in third place.
It was the second year in a row that a filly trained by Jerry Hollendorfer had blitzed the Las Virgenes Stakes, as Songbird did just that in 2016 en route to triumphs in the Santa Anita Oaks, CCA Oaks, Alabama Stakes and Cotillon Stakes.
Hollendorfer said after Unique Bella's devastating display that she would be kept to racing against her own sex for the time being, with the Kentucky Oaks the short-term target – although others have mooted the mouthwatering prospect of going for the Kentucky Derby.
Unique Bella – now the winner of three of her four starts, including the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes by a street at Santa Anita last month – is owned by Don Alberto Stable, which paid $400,000 for her at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
She was bred by Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable out of Unrivaled Belle, a daughter of Unbridled's Song who defeated the brilliant pair Blind Luck and Havre De Grace to score in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs in 2010.
Unrivaled Belle, also successful in the Grade 2 La Troienne Stakes and Grade 3 Rampart Stakes, was bought by Brushwood Stable for $2.8 million at the end of her racing career in 2011, but was sold on to Mandy Pope at last year's Keeneland November Breeding-Stock Sale for $3.8m – the biggest price at auction worldwide in 2016.
Unrivaled Belle is out of the Grade 2-winning Bertrando mare Queenie Belle, a half-sister to the Henry Cecil-trained Doncaster Cup and Queen Alexandra Stakes winner Canon Can.
Unique Bella is the latest superstar for North American champion stallion Tapit, a 16-year-old son of Pulpit who stands at Gainesway in Kentucky at a fee of $300,000.
On the evidence of Saturday's win it seems inconceivable she won't join her sire's roll-call of 21 Grade 1 winners, a number that includes household names such as Frosted, Stardom Bound, Tonalist and Untapable.