Tough challenge for Unique Bella in Filly and Mare Sprint

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Alastair Bull

November 2nd, 2017

We’ll know a lot more about the ability of boom filly Unique Bella after the seven-furlong Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on Nov. 4.

Unique Bella was a popular early pick for the Kentucky Oaks after winning three graded stakes races in California early this year. But an injury struck and she was forced out for most of the summer.

With limited time until the Breeders’ Cup, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer decided to aim her at the Filly & Mare Sprint rather than the 1 1/8-mile Distaff. She certainly looked fit and healthy when she won her only lead-up, the L.A. Woman Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Oct. 8.

Unique Bella’s reputation means she’s the 9-5 morning-line favorite, but a few factors suggest it will be poor value if she starts at anything like that price. She’s unproven against the best older sprinting mares – the L.A. Woman Stakes wasn’t anything like this quality, and only runner-up Princess Karen backs up in this – and she’s in a race that hasn’t seen a 3-year-old winner in its 10-year history.

Morning-line 5-1 second favorite Skye Diamonds didn’t look like a potential grade one winner early in her career, and she was claimed for $40,000 in August last year. Since then, she’s won six races in eight starts, including the Great Lady M. Stakes (G2) and the Rancho Bernardo (G3). In both races she defeated Constellation, who takes her on again on Saturday.

Last year’s Filly & Mare Turf winner Finest City was also among the beaten brigade in the Great Lady M. Stakes. She’s been defeated in her past four starts, but hasn’t been too far away and can’t be ignored.

Finley’sluckycharm has been in great form through the year, her only defeat in five starts coming in the Honorable Miss Handicap (G2) at Saratoga to Paulassilverlining. The latter finished third in this race last year and won four consecutive races after that, though she disappointed when fifth in the Ballerina Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Aug. 26.

By the Moon, Highway Star, and Carina Mia, the first three in the Ballerina, all take their place in the Filly & Mare Sprint. By The Moon hasn’t raced since, but Highway Star and Carina Mia locked horns again in the Gallant Bloom Stakes (G2), finishing first and second, respectively. All three can get some of the money here.

Ballerina sixth-place finisher Curlin’s Approval also starts, having won a handicap at Gulfstream Park in the meantime.

Ami’s Mesa comes into the race after four consecutive victories, three in grade three contests, including the Presque Isle Downs Masters (G2), though to date her best form has been on synthetic surfaces. Presque Isle Downs Masters runner-up Bar of Gold and multiple Ohio stakes winner Proper Discretion complete the field.

Unique Bella may be talented enough to win, but it’s hard to get a line on her form and it may be worth taking her on. Finley’sluckycharm should go well, as should By the Moon and Paulassilverlining, while it wouldn’t surprise to see Skye Diamonds and Constellation run well.