Unique Bella continues her journey to the May 5 Kentucky Oaks (G1) when lining up against six rivals in Saturday’s $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3).
The contest is part of the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series of points races and is worth 50-20-10-5 to the respective top four finishers.
Unique Bella currently sits in 6th on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard with 20 points and would take over the number two position behind Farrell with a win on Saturday. The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained daughter of Tapit has romped in her past three starts, including a 7 1/2-length victory in the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) to kick off her sophomore campaign and an 8 3/4-length score in the Las Virgenes Stakes (G2) most recently. That latter race saw the gray miss awarded a whopping 106 BRIS Speed rating.
Unique Bella will be stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time in the Santa Ysabel and brings along regular rider Mike Smith.
Abel Tasman could derail the Unique Bella train in their first meeting. Conditioned by Simon Callaghan, the Quality Road filly broke her maiden going a mile last September before capturing an allowance at Del Mar in mid-November. The bay lass was thrown to the wolves in her initial stakes try but passed with flying colors when taking the 1 1/16-mile Starlet Stakes (G1) to wrap up her juvenile season on December 10.
Abel Tasman has partnered with Joe Talamo for all four of her career starts thus far and the pair reunite in this seasonal bow on Saturday.
Noted and Quoted was right in the thick of the two-year-old filly division last year, breaking her maiden by 9 1/2 lengths before finishing fourth in the Del Mar Debutante (G1), winning the Chandelier Stakes (G1) and running seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). The Bob Baffert pupil will try to rebound to her Chandelier form here with Martin Garcia in the irons for the first time.
Tap It All is the only other stakes winner in the Santa Ysabel field. The bay daughter of Tapizar scored a front-running victory in the California Oaks on February 11 over the synthetic Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields, and gets Santiago Gonzalez holding the reins for this graded debut.
Spooky Woods also captured her last race in wire-to-wire fashion, but that came against maiden rivals in her fifth career starts. Similarly, Mistressofthenight broke her maiden in her fifth try most recently. Flavien Prat rides Spooky Woods while Corey Nakatani has been tabbed to pilot Mistressofthenight.
What What What ties Tap It All as the most experienced runners in this field with 11 total starts but has done better than that one by racking up a 3-2-5 mark, including capturing three of her last five. Rafael Bejarano has the call.