After tracking early leader Mopotism and Champagne Room – the 2016 champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner – Unique Bella made a three-wide move in the backstretch, took command, and opened up a clear lead.
"The way she settled, I could have taken her even farther back," Smith said. "At some point you have to let them be who they are – let them do what they're good at. I just let her do what she wanted to do and she picked it up, and was well within herself."
There was a moment in the final turn – and it was just a moment – when it appeared Champagne Room was game for a challenge. The Broken Vow filly got within a length of Unique Bella in the last bend, but the gray shrugged off the champion seemingly without any effort at all.
In the stretch, Unique Bella kicked away without any asking from Smith. With a furlong to run, the margin was five lengths and at the wire it was 8 ¾ lengths, as Smith geared down his filly to a gallop.
"You never expect that, but I was pretty confident when Mike kind of made his move early," Hollendorfer said. "I knew that he knew he had a lot of horse, so he just went for it and it turned out well."
Mopotism came in second, 1 1/4 lengths clear of Champagne Room, who had passed that rival in the turn. Miss Southern Miss trailed throughout and came in fourth.
After a second-place run in her June debut at Santa Anita going five furlongs, Unique Bella romped in her next two races, but both were sprints. She set the pace and cruised to a 10 1/4-length win in November to break her maiden at 6 1/2 furlongs on Del Mar’s main track, then stormed to a 7 1/2-length score in her stakes debut, the Jan. 8 Santa Ynez at seven furlongs.
In the Las Virgenes Mopotism ran the first quarter in :22.82, but Unique Bella had command at every call after that. The half went in :45.62 and Unique Bella hit six furlongs in 1:10.27, seven in 1:22.71, and finished off the mile in 1:35.66 under wraps.
As for the future, Hollendorfer said he'd like to keep Unique Bella racing against fillies.
"I'd like to keep her in California just like I did with [champion] Songbird," Hollendorfer said. "There's enough money to run out here and run against the girls, not the boys. I think we'll try to run here and if we'd be fortunate enough, we'd point to the [Longines Kentucky] Oaks."
Don Alberto Stable racing manager Fernando Diaz-Valdes opened the door a little more than his Hall of Fame trainer about possibly taking on males.
"I think it's too early to say," Diaz-Valdes said. "We'll have to take a look at what is happening around the country. ... I'm told I should go to the Kentucky Derby, when the time comes, but we'll see."
Bred in Kentucky by Brushwood Stable, Unique Bella was a $400,000 purchase by Don Alberto out of the Eaton Sales consignment at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.