Last at the top of the stretch, heavily-favored Blind Luck charged down the middle of the track to capture the $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I) by a nose over an unlucky Evening Jewel at Santa Anita Feb. 13 (VIDEO) .
Blind Luck, runner-up for Eclipse honors as the outstanding juvenile filly in the nation last year, kicked off her 2010 season with her third grade I win in the one-mile Las Virgenes, getting up in the final jump for jockey Rafael Bejarano. Jerry Hollendorfer trains the daughter of Pollard's Vision , who was sent off at odds of 1-5.
Evening Jewel, ridden by Victor Espinoza, had edged past Switch in the final strides but settled for second money. Switch, who dumped jockey Tyler Baze just past the finish line, wound up a close third. The final time was 1:35.98 over the Pro-Ride racing surface.
The Las Virgenes, a major prep for the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) March 6, was originally scheduled for Feb. 6 but had to be rescheduled when that program was canceled due to heavy rains and related drainage problems with the synthetic track.
Blind Luck is owned in partnership by Mark DeDomenico, John Carver, and Hollendorfer, who bought the chestnut filly privately after she romped to victory by 13 1/4 lengths in her debut at Calder over a $40,000 maiden claiming field last June.
She has raced exclusively on synthetic tracks since, winning Oak Tree's Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita prior to finishing a troubled third in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Blind Luck returned to romp by seven with a dazzling late move in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) in her final start of the year Dec. 20.
Just five 3-year-old fillies contested the Las Virgenes after the scratch of La Nez, who developed a slight cough and had an elevated white cell blood count, according to trainer Eric Kruljac.
Breaking from the rail, Blind Luck was unhurried as second choice Switch went to the front for Baze and showed the way through even quarter-mile splits of :24.31, :48.41, and 1:12.59. Outsider Summer Games tracked second, with Evening Jewel and Crisp stalking in third and fourth. Blind Luck had fallen off the lead by about seven lengths at the mid-point of the race. She was still last and racing three wide coming to the homestretch as Evening Jewel and Crisp turned up the pressure on Switch.
The grade III winner Crisp did not go on with it, but Evening Jewel, on the outside of Switch for Espinoza, dug down to get a head in front of Switch in deep stretch. Blind Luck, under left-handed urging from Bejarano, had four lengths to make up in the final furlong and didn't get her nose in front until reaching the wire in a sizzling finish. Switch finished a half-length behind Evening Jewel in third.
“When we came into the stretch I could see (Crisp) stopping and so we had to go outside of her," Bejarano said. "There wasn’t much speed, so it was hard to come from off the pace. She’s got a big turn of foot though, and as soon as we crossed the wire, I knew we had won it.”
Hollendorfer said he was concerned about the cutback in distance for Blind Luck and the small field.
"There were just a few horses in the race, and that’s always a concern," he said. "I think the speed sets up better when there are more horses. I think she showed herself (to be) a pretty good filly today.
“I’ve watched a lot of photos. The second time I thought we won. The first time I wasn’t sure, but second time, I thought we won, and I’m glad we did."
Past the wire, Switch stumbled and dumped Baze, who walked off the track under his own power and did not miss his mount in the next race. Switch, who ran off, was brought back without incident.
Never out of the money in seven starts, Blind Luck earned $150,000 for her fifth lifetime win, boosting her bankroll to $859,050. Hollendorfer said afterward that the filly would target the Santa Anita Oaks next.
Fairlawn Farm bred the winner, who was an $11,000 yearling purchase at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select sale. Blind Luck is out of Lucky One, by Best of Luck.
Blind Luck paid $2.40, $2.10, and $2.10 and topped a $15 exacta with Evening Jewel, who returned $5.60 and $3 The California-bred Evening Jewel, trained by James Cassidy, won the California Breeders' Championship filly division at Santa Anita Dec. 27 and was coming off a runner-up finish behind Crisp in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III). Switch was $2.40 to show in her two-turn debut for trainer John Sadler.
“That’s as tough as it gets,” Cassidy said of Evening Jewel's tough-luck loss.
Crisp and Summer Games trailed.