Unique Bella Stands Out in Clement L. Hirsch Stakes

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

July 26th, 2018

She’s been almost unstoppable, winning eight of her eleven starts. Her rare defeats have come under extenuating circumstances. She’s got blazing early speed and can carry it around two turns, and she’s already won twice at the Grade 1 level.

That’s why it’s not surprising to see a small field turn out to face #2 in Sunday’s $300,000 Clement L. Hirsch Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar. Even with a “Win and You’re In” berth to the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I) on the line, just five fillies and mares will dare to challenge Unique Bella, because on paper, the gray daughter of Tapit looks difficult or impossible to beat.

Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Unique Bella has had the reputation of being something special since her debut back in 2016. Remarkably, she has never started at higher odds than 1.30-1, a streak she’ll surely maintain in the Clement L. Hirsch regardless of whether she wins or loses. And a defeat would certainly be a shock—she enters off a decisive score in the Beholder Mile (gr. I) at Santa Anita, and in terms of BRIS speed figures she towers over the field with six triple-digit numbers on her record. Her five rivals combined have never cracked the triple-digit barrier.

The only possible concern for Unique Bella is that she can be a bit headstrong at times, particularly if she breaks slowly from the starting gate, and those antics may have cost her victory in the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) earlier this year. But even with something less than a completely professional run, Unique Bella will be tough to catch on Sunday.

Her main opposition could come from #3 La Force. Trained by Patrick Gallagher, the daughter of Power has never won a stakes race but unleashed a nice late run to finish second behind Unique Bella in the Beholder Mile, albeit while capitalizing on a perfect pace setup. There isn’t nearly as much speed in the Clement L. Hirsch, which could lead to a trickier trip for La Force.

#6 Yuvetsi enters off a decisive 2 ½-length score in the restricted Santa Lucia Stakes at Santa Anita, her first start around two turns since January 2017. This graded stakes-place filly could be poised to take another step forward in the Clement L. Hirsch and looms as one of the main contenders to finish in the exotics, along with the capable #1 Bernina Star, who finished second in the Santa Lucia.

Completing the field are #5 Shenandoah Queen, close runner-up in the Adoration Stakes (gr. III) two starts back, and #4 Turkish Tabby, fifth in the Great Lady M. Stakes (gr. II) last time out.

The Clement L. Hirsch is the fifth race on the card, with a post time of 4:00 p.m. Pacific.