Keying Unique Bella in the Apple Blossom Handicap

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

April 11th, 2018

If you want to make a profit betting Friday’s $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park, then in all likelihood you’ll have to concede that #5 Unique Bella is probably unbeatable.

The four-year-old daughter of Tapit has won seven of her nine starts for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer while showing flashes of pure brilliance and talent. Although some of her biggest victories have come in sprints, is nevertheless a perfect 3-for-3 going a mile or farther, including an effortless nine-length romp in the 8.5-furlong Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita on February 10th.

In terms of speed figures, Unique Bella boasts a substantial advantage over her six Apple Blossom rivals—she’s posted triple-digit BRIS speed figures in five of her last six starts, whereas her six rivals have earned a combined total of just two triple-digit figures.

Unique Bella should also have a significant tactical advantage in the Apple Blossom thanks to her excellent early speed. Only one other filly in the Apple Blossom—#7 Farrell—has shown a preference for racing on the lead, which should allow Unique Bella to work out a perfect trip either setting or stalking a modest pace. Under the circumstances, I would be very surprised if Unique Bella is beaten in this race.

That said, Unique Bella’s obvious strengths will ensure that she starts at a short price, so to make a meaningful profit we’ll have to focus on exotic bets like the trifecta. Since there’s a good chance that the track will be wet on Friday, I’ll toss out the above-mentioned Farrell—who has been inconsistent on sloppy tracks—and favor the late-running pair of #1 Tiger Moth and #6 Streamline. Both are graded stakes winner this year, with Tiger Moth beating a good field in the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (gr. III) and Streamline prevailing in the Bayakoa Stakes (gr. III) over this track and distance two starts back. Even more significant, both Tiger Moth and Streamline have won over wet tracks in the past—in fact, Streamline’s Bayakoa victory came over a sloppy, sealed racing surface.

I’ll also consider #2 Unbridled Mo, who recently returned from a long layoff to finish fourth in a competitive renewal of the Royal Delta Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher, the daughter of Uncle Mo is a three-time graded stakes winner over the Apple Blossom distance, and if she takes even a small step forward in her second start of the year, she can be a major factor here.

I’ll play a few trifectas in varying amounts to balance the possible payoffs, including one small saver ticket with Unbridled Mo on top:

$5 trifecta: 5 with 2 with 1,6 ($10) $3.50 trifecta: 5 with 1,6 with 1,2,6 ($14) $1 trifecta: 2 with 1,5,6 with 1,5,6 ($6)

Good luck!