Unrivaled Belle, benefitting from a poor break by Venezuelan shipper Bambera, took advantage of an uncontested lead and sailed home to a 1 3/4-length victory in the $150,000 Rampart Stakes (gr. III) (VIDEO) March 20 at Gulfstream Park.
A homebred of Gary Seidler and Peter Vegso, Unrivaled Belle captured her first graded stakes while being sent off as the 9-5 favorite. She took the field of eight wire-to-wire while completing nine furlongs in 1:49.36 under Kent Desormeaux. Bill Mott trains the 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled's Song.
Bambera, the 2009 Horse of the Year in Venezuela and a winner of 16 of 18 lifetime starts, was making her U.S. debut under Edgar Perez. But the 4-year-old filly, who was an expected pacesetter, stumbled badly from post 1 as the starting gate opened and was never a factor. That left Unrivaled Belle alone on the front end and she was never contested for the lead. The gray/roan filly coasted through splits of :23.72, :47.43, 1:11.26, and 1:36.25.
Unrivaled Belle took a 1 1/2-length lead at the eighth-pole, with Champagne Eyes still tracking under Javier Castellano. But they could never get to the leader, who was fully extended while keeping her closest challenger at bay.
Champagne Eyes held on for second, a head in front of Irish-bred Miss Singhsix. Miss Match was fourth.
“The last couple of times we tried to hold her off the lead and I was a little disappointed with the way she ran, so I thought maybe we should employ a different tactic today and go for the lead,” Desormeaux said. “Thankfully, that change in the plan was successful. At no point late was I worried that the other horses were going to come get her; she still had plenty left at the finish.”
As a 3-year-old, Unrivaled Belle won three of five starts including the Real Prize Stakes at Belmont, and showed a hint of things to come when finishing runner-up to Flashing in the grade I Gazelle at Aqueduct. In her 2010 debut, she was fourth in the Feb. 14 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita.
“She can be the most docile horse around the barn, but when she goes to the paddock it can be a battle,” said Mott referring to Unrivaled Belle, who acted up both in the paddock and when being led into the starting gate. “She’s actually pretty good when she does get in the gate.
“She was a still a maiden at Keeneland last year and had some minor issues, so she had kind of a limited campaign. She ran well in the Gazelle and we were looking forward to this year. She’s been invited to the Apple Blossom (gr. I, Oaklawn Park on April 9) and then there is a race Derby weekend at Churchill. We’ve also got another nice filly in Justwhistledixie, so we’ll look at the options.”
Unrivaled Belle is now 4-2-0 from seven starts and has earned $259,270. She is out of the Bertrando mare Queenie Belle.
The winner paid $5.80, $3.40, and $2.80. The exacta (8-7) with 25-1 Champagne Eyes was $100.40. The trifecta (8-7-6) was $242 for $1.