ARCADIA, Calif. - Unique Bella is back, and racing in the manner her legions of supporters expect.
In her first start since March, Unique Bella won Sunday's Grade 3 LA Woman Stakes for fillies and mares at 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita in a key prep for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 3.
"She'll get something out of that today and she should be ready to go," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said in the winner's circle.
Unique Bella ($2.40) won the $100,345 LA Woman Stakes by 3 1/2 lengths over 9-2 Princess Karen, finishing in 1:16.66. Ridden by Mike Smith, Unique Bella was third for the first half-mile, racing well off the rail. Smith guided Unique Bella into contention with a three-wide move on the turn and took the lead before the eighth pole.
Smith gave Unique Bella a reminder with his whip once in the stretch, but otherwise did not aggressively urge his mount as she drew clear for her fourth consecutive graded stakes win.
"What I found interesting was that she settled really nicely," Smith said. "In the past, I don't think she would have done that. She would have just run on by and opened up by five, six or seven and coasted on home.
"Today, she rated nice and I had horse left. When I picked her up at the eighth pole, she really got into the bridle."
Princess Karen, who won the Robert Lewis Stakes at Los Alamitos on Sept. 9, finished three-quarters of a length in front of 34-1 Cuddle Alert, who won the Spring Fever Handicap for California-breds here in February.
Bad Ju Ju was fourth, followed by Lunar Empress and Dis Smart Cat.
Unique Bella, who is owned by Don Alberto Stables, has won 5 of 6 starts and earned $402,400. She was sidelined last March with sore shins that kept her out of the major stakes for 3-year-old fillies in the spring and summer.
Last winter, Unique Bella won the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes at seven furlongs in January in her third start, the Grade 2 Las Virgenes Stakes at a mile in February, and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in March.