Unique Bella turning heads at Santa Maria Stakes

Unique Bella turning heads at Santa Maria Stakes

February 13, 2018 3:07 AM


When the 4-year-old filly Unique Bella won the 1-1/16 mile Santa Maria Stakes on Saturday, she did a few things worthy of comment.

First, she earned her seventh victory in nine career starts with a 109 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest of her career. It also was the best figure earned by any female racehorse so far in 2018; the best by any horse on a Saturday that featured 23 stakes from coast to coast.

While a further review of Unique Bella’s career revealed she has been the betting favorite in every one of her races, she was so strongly regarded she was held at bottom rock odds ranging between 10 cents and 60 cents on the dollar, five different times. Very few horses in racing history can match that kind of part-mutual support, which is another way to say she is “unique.”

 Then, as I completed my review of Unique Bella’s career, the thing that kept coming to my head was the first part of her name – “Unique.” Admittedly, as I repeated that word a few times, it guided me toward a few other unusual things that occurred on Saturday’s racing scene.

For instance, in an era when 3-year-old racehorses are the glamour division of the sport and 4- and 5-year-olds dominate the major stakes for “older horses,” how many Thoroughbreds have you seen still in training at 12 years of age?

According to various sources, the actual count for this season is 16 horses who qualify at that age, including only four actually in training. Yet, the most unique thing about this fact is the 12-year-old Dance Caller has already won two races in 2018 and is the only horse that old to win any race this year!

Even his trainer Joseph Foster is impressed.

Pretty amazing,” he said after Dance Caller won a race on Saturday at the Fairgrounds in New Orleans. “It takes an awesome horse to win as a 2-year-old and then do it again at 12, especially at a major track… Never had one like him; he’s made a lot of money in his day and run in some nice races… He certainly shows that he still belongs in the game.”

Dance Caller began his 11-year racing career in 2008 with a fourth place finish in a maiden race at Arlington Park while trained by the late Bob Holthus. On Saturday, he won for the 17th time from 79 lifetime starts, including a stakes score nine years ago in the 2009 Northern Spur at Oaklawn. On Saturday, Dance Caller was ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel.

Another unique thing that unfolded on Saturday, with more details to come as we head toward the 144th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 5, was the opening of this year’s second Advance Derby Wagering Pool. While advance Derby wagering has been in operation each season since 1999, the most unique thing about it is: No specific horse ever has been listed as the early betting favorite in this Advanced Derby Wagering Pool.

Not one.

Moreover, fans who placed their bets on the All Others category, have won six out of the last 15 ADW pools, including last year with Always Dreaming.

 This year, the category All Other (Derby) Horses, which again represents horses not given specific advance Derby wagering odds, is again the betting favorite, opening at 5-2 odds. Here are the respective ADW odds being offered on 22 different Derby prospects:

Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro are listed at 8-1 apiece; Mckinzie and Audible, at 9-1 respectively; Catholic Boy, 16-1; Instilled Regard, 18-1; Solomini, 19-1; Mask, 22-1; Avery Island, 27-1; Principe Guilherme and Mourinho, 30-1 apiece; Sporting Chance 33-1; Free Drop Billy, 36-1; Strike Power, 40-1; Untamed Domain, 41-1; Copper Bullet, 43-1; Mendelssohn,44-1; Enticed, 62-1; Firenze Fire, 63-1; Retirement Fund, 67-1; Tiz Mischief, 71-1 and Combatant, 72-1.

Montauk, originally named in this pool has been declared out of the 2018 Kentucky Derby.

What is unique about all the above is this: Kanthaka, winner on Saturday of the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes with a terrific 99 Beyer, is not among the named horses in this ADW pool! Neither is Nero, the Bob Baffert trainee who finished second in that 7 furlong contest. Both are being joined in the All Others category by Flameaway, the good winner of Saturday’s 1-1/16 mile Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. Flameaway not only earned a respectable 92 Beyer in this two-turn affair, but was scoring his fourth stakes triumph in six career attempts!

Added Note: World Approval, a consistent winner of more than $3 million, won his 12th race from 25 career outings on Saturday, taking the $175K Tampa Bay at 1-1/16 miles on the grass with a 103 Beyer Figure. That was the sixth straight triple-digit-Beyer he has earned during the past 11 months, which also is quite unique.