Blind Luck pursues her sixth grade I victory when she takes on a familiar cast of top Southern California female competitors in the $250,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) at Hollywood Park June 18.
The 1 1/8-mile Cushion Track event attracted a field of six older fillies and mares, with the 123-pound high weight Blind Luck and dual grade I winner Switch, assigned 120, likely to dominate the wagering. The race also drew a third grade I winner, Miss Match, who captured the Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) at odds of 45-1 this spring, and the always-tough grade St Trinians, a grade II winner.
The Vanity is the eighth race on the Hollywood Park program and is expected to go off at 4:35 p.m. PDT.
Things haven't gone as smoothly for Blind Luck in 2011 as trainer Jerry Hollendorfer might have liked. Last year's 3-year-old champion filly began the year with three consecutive runner-up finishes in graded stakes and gave up her spot atop the division to Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) winner Havre de Grace.
The daughter of Pollard's Vision rebounded with a half-length victory, after a stumbling start, over Unrivaled Belle in the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs May 6. That was the first time she had met Unrivaled Belle since finishing second to her in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) last fall at Churchill. The Ladies' Classic was the second of five consecutive runner-up finishes for Blind Luck, whose last victory before the La Troienne came in Saratoga's Alabama Stakes (gr. I) last summer.
“She’s been doing great since she came back from Kentucky,’’ said Hollendorfer, who will turn 65 on Saturday. “I think a mile and an eighth is a good distance for her.’’
Blind Luck captured the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and has finished second twice in three tries at the 1 1/8-mile distance.
The Vanity will be Blind Luck's first grade I start of the year. The chestnut filly, co-owned by Hollendorfer, Peter Abruzzo, John Carver, and Mark DeDomenico, has won 10 of 19 races and $2,679,520 in her career, which includes eight graded wins. Garrett Gomez retains the mount on Blind Luck, who breaks from the far outside. Gomez and Hollendorfer are seeking their first wins in the Vanity, a race won the past three years by superstar Zenyatta.
Switch, trained by John Sadler for Lee and Susan Searing’s C R K Stable, split a pair of decisions with Blind Luck last season, finishing third to her in the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) and winning the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) by 1 1/4 lengths. They clash for the first time in 2011.
The year started out superbly for the 4-year-old daughter of Quiet American when she completed back-to-back grade I wins with a 3 1/2-length triumph in the Santa Monica Stakes (gr. IT) at Santa Anita Jan. 30.
Since then Switch was caught late when heavily favored in the March 12 Santa Margarita, losing by a head to Miss Match. She then took on Havre de Grace in the Oaklawn Park's Apple Blossom and was beaten by three-quarters of a length after leading in the homestretch of the 1 1/16-mile event April 15. This will be Switch's first start since then.
With a 5-5-2 record in 14 starts and earnings of $942,600, Switch will team once again with regular rider Joel Rosario. She has two wins and two seconds in four tries on the Cushion Track, though she has yet to win in two starts at the Vanity distance.
British-bred St Trinians was ultra-tough in last year's Vanity for owners owners Daniel Capen and Laura Chavers, and trainer Mike Mitchell, taking the lead in the stretch but failing to hold on by a half-length to Zenyatta.
That was her final start of the year. She has started three times this season, finishing third in a repeat bid of her victory in last year's Santa Maria Stakes (gr. II), followed by a fourth in the Santa Margarita. In her last start, the Milady Handicap (gr. II) at Hollywood May 21, she was disqualified from a 1 1/4-length victory and placed fourth for interference in the stretch.
The 6-year-old daughter of Piccolo is attempting to become the second to win the Vanity a year after a runner-up finish. Calumet Farm's Bewitch accomplished the feat in 1960.
Pace duties in the Vanity will likely fall to American Story, trained by Bob Baffert. She will race without blinkers in the Vanity. Kaleem Shah's fast-developing 4-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper showed the way in the Milady and was one of the horses impeded when St Trinians drifted inward late. American Story was placed second in her graded stakes debut.
Six-year-old Miss Match, an Argentina-bred mare trained by Neil Drysdale for Matthew Cioros, has won two of three start in 2011 including her unlikely late-driving victory in the Santa Margarita. She ran fourth in the Apple Blossom in her most recent race. A victory by Miss Match would be a record-tying fifth in the Vanity for Drysdale, who would catch Zenyatta's conditioner, John Shirreffs.
She's Cheeky, placed third in the Milady, is seeking her first graded stakes win for trainer Peter Eurton. The 6-year-old mare will likely be part of the pace scenario.
$250,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I, Race 8, 4:35 p.m.), Fillies & Mares 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Miss Match (ARG), J Talamo, 118, N D Drysdale
2. St Trinians (GB), R Bejarano, 119, M R Mitchell
3. American Story (KY), M Garcia, 113, B Baffert
4. Switch (KY), J Rosario, 120, J W Sadler
5. She's Cheeky (KY), B Blanc, 114, P Eurton
6. Blind Luck (KY), G K Gomez, 123, J Hollendorfer
Blinkers Off: American Story