Since suffering her worst career loss in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, where she placed 7th overall, Unique Bella has been defiant in her four-year-old season and continues to trend in the right direction. She is the 3/5 favorite heading in to the 2018 Beholder Mile, and will be challenged by some familiar faces.
Since returning this year, Unique Bella handedly won the Labrea and Santa Maria Stakes before falling to second place against Unbridled Mo in a thriller at the Apple Blossom Handicap. That was just her second loss in a stakes race, and is unlikely to be a trend moving forward. This is a much better situation and her handlers know how to get the best out of her.
“She’s always given us a hard time with the gate, but horses are not perfect,” noted racing manager Fernando Diaz-Valdes, while further explaining that the outside post, “will help us tremendously. If you watched the Apple Blossom, at the gate, she got a little impatient. The starter grabbed her tail, and she hates that, so she sat down, they opened the gate, and she wasn’t ready.”
Competing at the 2018 Beholder Mile will be Paradise Woods, a 2/1 second choice who was runner up in the La Brea and fourth in the Santa Maria Handicap. She’s definitely not performed up to task, and Mandella knows that his job is to get her under reigned and focused. “It’s not that she’s not trying,” noted Mandella. “It’s that she’s probably trying too much. And she has delicate feet and that can lead to bruises, and sometimes you don’t know until after the race.”
The highly rated Vale Dori is the third favorite at 4/1, and the now six-year-old mare looks to be hitting the tail end of her peak. She’s coming off a 5th place finish in the 2018 Adoration Stakes and feels far removed from her second place finish at this very race last year, where she was runner-up to Stellar Wind.
Rounding out the 2018 Beholder Mile field is Munny Spunt, Mopotism and La Force, who huddle the inside posts.
Getting back to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships is priority one for Unique Bella, and putting her recent defeat at the Apple Blossom is the first step towards that ultimate goal. This is her race to lose, with Vale Dori posing the largest overall threat. Vale Dori is simply too good to ignore and has accomplished too much to suddenly fall off the cliff.
2018 Beholder Mile – Saturday, June 9th (Race 9) at Santa Anita Park
1 Mile – 3+ Fillies & Mares – $400,000
|1||Munny Spunt (FL)||Kyle Frey||121||Doug F. O’Neill||30/1|
|2||Mopotism (KY)||Geovanni Franco||121||Doug F. O’Neill||15/1|
|3||La Force (GER)||Drayden Van Dyke||121||Patrick Gallagher||20/1|
|4||Paradise Woods (KY)||Flavien Prat||123||Richard E. Mandella||2/1|
|5||Vale Dori (ARG)||Rafael Bejarano||121||Bob Baffert||4/1|
|6||Unique Bella (PA)||Mike E. Smith||121||Jerry Hollendorfer||3/5|
UPDATE [Mon, June 4th] – Unique Bella won the 2018 Beholder Mile easily followed by surprise runner-up La Force, Paradise Wodos and Vale Dori. La Force made it interesting by swallowing a 6 1/2 length lead and reducing it to just 2 1/4.