Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith poses aboard Unique Bella in the Santa Anita Park winner's circle

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith poses aboard Unique Bella in the Santa Anita Park winner's circle

BENOIT PHOTO

Unique Bella Nears Return to Training

Tapit filly is progressing well in her recovery from a shin issue.

Don Alberto Stable's Unique Bella is progressing well in her recovery from the shin issue that caused her to miss the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1), and the 3-year-old Tapit  filly should return to the track for Jerry Hollendorfer soon, the Hall of Fame trainer said June 16.

Unique Bella dropped her debut with a runner-up effort, but then won four straight, including the Santa Ynez Stakes (G2), Las Virgenes Stakes (G2), and Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3). She was considered a top contender for the Kentucky Oaks until she was sidelined with the shin problem in late March.

NOVAK: Unique Bella Sidelined Due to Shin Issue

According to Don Alberto racing manager Fernando Diaz-Valdes, Unique Bella could spend time at Bob Mitchell's Bonnie Acres Ranch near Hemet, Calif., to undergo conditioning on the HydroHorse underwater treadmill system there before she returns to the track. While Hollendorfer said "we haven't talked about a total plan for her yet," the trainer acknowledged underwater treadmill therapy could be part of the final steps of getting Unique Bella back under tack.

"She's doing very well right now," Diaz-Valdes said. "When you have a sore shin, you have to give it some time off, and she's a big filly. But she's been walking every day and going to the whirlpool spa at Santa Anita (Park), and we're hoping you'll see her first couple works back by the end of July."

The $1 million Cotillion Stakes (G1) at Parx Racing Sept. 23 could be a target for the gray filly, Diaz-Valdes said.

"At the end of September, the idea is to run her. That is what we're pointing for," Diaz-Valdes said. "We're pointing for the Cotillion, and of course to try to get to the Breeders' Cup.

"She's doing great. We're very happy with her. We gave her the right time off and we're not going to retire her at the end of the year, either."

Bred in Pennsylvania by Brushwood Stable out of 2010 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1) winner Unrivaled Belle, Unique Bella was a $400,000 purchase by Don Alberto from Eaton Sales' consignment to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale. Her record stands at 4-1-0 from five starts, with earnings of $342,400.