10/30/2017 12:56PM

Opposition wary of Unique Bella

Barbara D. Livingston
Unique Bella, pictured at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, 2017, looms large in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint.

A full gate of 14 is pre-entered in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint for Saturday, but just one name – Unique Bella – has dominated the conversation as the $1 million race draws near.

A winner in 5 of 6 career starts, Unique Bella has awed even the opposing trainers of the 13 pre-entered against her in the seven-furlong Filly and Mare Sprint.

“I’ve been watching her train, and she’s just extremely fast,” said Bob Baffert, who will run Constellation against her. “She’s got just raw, raw speed, raw talent. It looks like she’s ready to roll.”

Unique Bella, owned by the Don Alberto Stable, was knocked off the Kentucky Oaks trail with a shin injury in late March, after which trainer Jerry Hollendorfer decided to target the Filly and Mare Sprint, as opposed to the BC Distaff. A 3 1/2-length victory in the Oct. 8 L.A. Woman seems to have served its purpose as a comeback prep toward the goal.

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Unique Bella was scheduled to arrive early Tuesday at Del Mar from her Santa Anita base. Aside from a light training regimen, she was to school Wednesday through Friday, said Hollendorfer.

“We’re taking nothing for granted, but yes, the filly has done very well since we put her back in training,” said Hollendorfer.

Hollendorfer trained Constellation for her six most recent starts before LNJ Foxwoods turned her over to Baffert this summer. The 4-year-old filly has four stakes wins, most notably the Grade 1 La Brea in December, from 12 career starts.

“She’s a very healthy filly,” said Baffert. “The fact she won the La Brea ought to make her one of the horses to beat. She’s been doing really well, but going against Unique Bella, she’s going to have to step it up a little bit.”