Unique Bella was one of eight horses nominated by Thursday for the Aug. 18 Pacific Classic, the highlight of the Del Mar season.
But that left a bigger question: Will she run? It seems to be highly unlikely.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer rarely races his fillies against males at the 1¼-mile distance of the Pacific Classic. And it just so happens that Unique Bella’s regular jockey, Mike Smith, is committed to riding in the Alabama Stakes at Saratoga on the same day as the Pacific Classic.
Unique Bella was one of two horses nominated by Hollendorfer for the Pacific Classic on Thursday. Full of Luck also was nominated for Del Mar’s premier race, along with Accelerate, Ann Arbor Eddie, Catalina Cruiser, Pavel, Prime Attraction and The Lieutenant.
While $300 nominations closed at midnight Thursday, supplemental entries at a fee of $10,000 can be made until Aug. 14. At least four more nominations are anticipated.
But the nomination of Unique Bella drew the most interest Thursday, if for no other reason than the probability that the Eclipse Award-winning, 4-year-old filly won’t take on the males in the $1 million, Grade I Pacific Classic.
“We’re nominating her and we’ll take a look at the other nominations,” Hollendorfer said Thursday, without commenting on the possibility of Unique Bella actually running in the Pacific Classic.
Only five females have run in past Pacific Classics with Beholder winning the 2015 edition and placing second to California Chrome the following year.
Hollendorfer last year rejected requests to run Unique Bella in the Kentucky Derby and had her headed toward the Kentucky Oaks before an injury sidelined the horse for four months.
Hollendorfer has had four previous starters in the Pacific Classic and won with Shared Belief in 2014.
Other horses mentioned as possible nominees for the Pacific Classic are Dr Dorr, Mubtaahij and Roman Ross — who are all trained by six-time winning trainer Bob Baffert — plus Sharp Samurai and Beach View.
Espinoza granted stay
San Diego County Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Casserly granted jockey Assael Espinoza an indeterminate stay of serving his 10-day suspension until the appeal of the penalty can be heard by the California Horse Racing Board.
The decision means that the apprentice, who was sanctioned for triggering Saturday’s 10th-race accident — which sent jockeys Corey Nakatani and Geovanni Franco to the hospital and resulted in the death of Irish Spring — could be able to ride for the rest of the Del Mar meet.
The suspension was due to start Sunday. Following the stay, Espinoza received six mounts on Sunday’s card.
* Instagrand has been made the 1-2 favorite for Saturday’s $200,000, Grade II Best Pal stakes. The six-furlong sprint for 2-year-olds on the main track has drawn five horses, with Owning, Synthesis, Mason Dixon and Sparky Ville outside of Instagrand and jockey Drayden Van Dyke on the rail.
* Defending champion Skye Diamonds will face five rivals in Sunday’s $100,000, Grade II Rancho Bernardo Handicap at 6½ furlongs on the main track for older fillies and mares. The field will also include Anonymity, Deer Valley, Moonshine Memories, Turkish and Yuvetski.
* Cordiality is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the field of nine for today’s $150,000 Solana Beach Stakes for older California-bred fillies and mares. Cordiality will be breaking from the outside post with Tyler Baze up.
* Espinoza rode Ike Walker to victory in Thursday’s $65,000 feature, rallying past Lookie Loo late in the stretch and winning by a nose in the mile run on the main track. The Hollendorfer-trained Ike Walker has won five of his seven starts at Del Mar.
Center is a freelance writer.