The Grade I La Brea Stakes was part of Santa Anita Racetrack’s great opening day on Tuesday, December 26 — and racing fans were treated to a real showdown between Paradise Woods and Unique Bella.
Part of what keeps horse racing timeless are the rivalries, the great duels between tyrants that captivate racing fans and connections in race after race as these athletes face off on mile-long stages all over the country. That was exactly the kind of showdown that took place on Tuesday, December 26, 2017 — Santa Anita’s opening day — between the superstar fillies Unique Bella and Paradise Woods.
The field of eight fillies in the Grade I La Brea Stakes broke well, with Princess Karen grabbing the lead. Paradise Woods lurked just behind on the rail with Unique Bella a silver shadow to the outside; Paradise Woods battled up to take the lead before the turn for home and Unique Bella pounced, making up ground and moving up in the stretch to take on the new leader.
These two fillies dueled as they raced for the wire, but Paradise Woods faded, with Unique Bella continuing to power through to a three-quarter length win.
Earlier this year, Unique Bella was an early favorite for the Kentucky Oaks with her powerhouse stride and large frame — but an injury set her back, forcing her to take much of the spring and summer season off to recuperate. She came back with a Grade III win in the fall but did not rise to the occasion in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint — so to see her come back in good form, patiently waiting just behind the pace to pounce, is a happy sign of things to come. Owned by Don Alberto Stable, Unique Bella is trained by Jerry Hollendorfer and ridden by Mike Smith.
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