Don Alberto Stable’s 3-year-old Tapit filly Unique Bella threw down a scintillating performance in the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita Feb. 5, one that has many racing pundits singing her praises as a possible Triple Crown candidate.
Breaking from post 3, jockey Mike Smith allowed Unique Bella to stalk the pace through the first quarter, but the big gray filly’s willingness to engage the frontrunners prompted Smith to let her take the lead after a half-mile and extend her margin throughout the remaining four furlongs, crossing the finish line 8¾ lengths ahead of Mopotism. Juvenile filly champion Champagne Room was another 1¼ lengths back in third.
Unique Bella, who is Triple Crown-nominated, completed the one-mile race in 1:35.66, a time that earned her a 98 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of any 3-year-old, male or female, in 2017.
While it remains to be seen whether Unique Bella will challenge males this spring, should her connections decide to keep her among her peers and target the Santa Anita Oaks and Kentucky Oaks, winners of the Las Virgenes have an excellent track record in both. Of the 35 Las Virgenes winners, 19 have gone on to add the Santa Anita Oaks. Of the 18 that have contested the Kentucky Oaks, six have stood in the winner’s circle.