Ricardo Santana Jr. celebrates aboard Unbridled Mo while crossing the finish line of the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn

Ricardo Santana Jr. celebrates aboard Unbridled Mo while crossing the finish line of the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn

Coady Photography

Unbridled Mo Upsets Unique Bella in Apple Blossom

Favored Unique Bella missed the break, rushed up to the front, and finished second.

Red Oak Stable's homebred Unbridled Mo pulled off an impressive upset April 13, when she closed late to win the $700,000 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at Oaklawn Park.

After 1-5 favorite Unique Bella missed the break, she rushed up to challenge early leader Farrell in the first turn and dueled with the leader wide in the backstretch and entering the final turn. The Todd Pletcher-trained Uncle Mo  mare, who had tracked the pace in fourth, made her bid on the outside and powered past the favorite under jockey Ricardo Santana Jr.

"I was sitting fourth, and at the five-eighths (pole), I took her out a little bit, and then she came on pretty good," Santana said. "At the three-eighths pole, I was just waiting for the turn for home because I didn’t want to move too soon. When I turned for home, I asked her, and her class won out.”

Unbridled Mo finished in 1:43.94 on a good (sealed) track to secure her first grade 1 win by 2 1/4 lengths over Unique Bella. Farrell, who had a 2 1/2-length lead through a first quarter in :23.41, had that lead cut down to a head through a half in :46.94. The pressure from Unique Bella, who took over and held a one-length lead through six furlongs in 1:11.40, took a toll, and Farrell came in last of seven, 10 1/4 lengths behind the winner.

"(Unique Bella) squatted in the gate. I was trying to stand her up. The next thing I knew, they opened the gates and she squatted back," said jockey Mike Smith. "She totally missed the break. I wish I could have stayed last. If I could have, I would have. She was very strong and very fresh. After she got left, she just wanted to catch up. I could have thrown her down, but I never had to do that, and I wasn't about to start. It was just unfortunate."

Streamline, who won the Bayakoa Stakes (G3) on a wet track at Oaklawn two starts back, also loomed at the top of the lane behind the gray favorite, but she flattened out in the final furlong and lost third by a neck to Fuhriously Kissed. Tiger Moth, Beach Flower, and Farrell completed the order of finish.

The Apple Blossom was Unbridled Mo's seventh win from 10 starts and fourth graded victory. In 2016, she won the Monmouth Oaks (G3), and she scored the Houston Ladies Classic Stakes (G3) and Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) in 2017. The Apple Blossom was her second start of 2018, following a fourth-place run in the Royal Delta Stakes (G3) Feb. 19 at Gulfstream Park.

"We thought, ultimately, a grade 1 was sort of the only thing missing on her résumé," Pletcher said. "She's a very consistent mare. We knew that there's a very short-priced favorite we had to beat. We felt like if she'd won—even if she was second or third—it would be a positive result. (We) decided to go ahead and take a shot, and (we're) very happy that we did."

Bred in Kentucky out of the Unbridled mare Unbridled Waters, Unbridled Mo now has $960,880 in earnings for Red Oak Stable owner Stephen Brunetti.

"This is our first time we've ever been to Hot Springs, and I'm sure we'll be back again," Brunetti said. "We were going back and forth between a couple of different races, and Todd told us how well she was training and he said, 'Let's take a shot in the Apple Blossom.' You never knew what would have happened with Unique Bella. She was shipping, and it was a sloppy track. (It) just all worked out for the best."

Video: Apple Blossom H. (G1)