Upset as the odds-on choice by Always a Princess in last month's El Encino Stakes (gr. II), champion filly Blind Luck looks to snap a three-race losing streak in the La Canada Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 13 at Santa Anita Feb. 13.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer turns to jockey Rafael Bejarano in an effort to bring the loss string to an end in the 1 1/8-mile La Canada, which attracted just four other 4-year-old fillies, including Always a Princess. Bejarano, who replaces Joel Rosario, has not been aboard Blind Luck since a second-place finish in the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II) last June. He rode her to grade I victories last season in the Las Virgenes Stakes and the Kentucky Oaks.
According to Hollendorfer, the switch back to Bejarano from Rosario after five consecutive races was to gain a long-term commitment on the filly. Rosario is to ride Switch in Santa Anita’s $300,000 Santa Margarita Stakes (gr. I) March 13.
“He (Bejarano) is the leading rider and probably riding as good as anybody has seen him ride. I don’t think he’s lost a photo here,” Hollendorfer said.
It's hard to call Blind Luck's current form a slump since she has run well in each of her recent defeats, but the late-running daughter of Pollard's Vision made up little ground on a determined Always a Princess in the stretch run of the El Encino Jan. 16, losing by 3 1/2 lengths. Last year's Eclipse Award-winning 3-year-old filly will have an additional sixteenth of a mile to work with in the La Canada.
Owned by Mark DeDomenico, John Carver, and Peter Abruzzo, Blind Luck has had three workouts since the El Encino, including a :49 1/5 half-mile drill on Santa Anita's training track Feb. 10 that was termed "fabulous" by Hollendorfer assistant Dan Ward. Bejarano was astride for the move.
“She gallops on the training track and we worked her on it because it’s easier on her feet,” said Ward. “She’s ready for the La Canada and certainly should like the longer distance.”
Blind Luck's last victory came in Saratoga's 10-furlong Alabama Stakes (gr. I) Aug. 21, a win that helped cinch end-of-the-year honors. Since then, she has recorded consecutive runner-up finishes in last fall's Fitz-Dixon Cotillion Stakes (gr. II) at Philadelphia's Parx Racing and the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, followed by the El Encino to begin her 2011 campaign. She boasts a 9-5-2 mark in 16 lifetime starts and earnings of $2,418,712.
Blind Luck is one of three fillies in the field weighted at 123 pounds, along with Always a Princess and Harmonious, a dual grade I winner on turf who will be ridden by Rosario.
After a fourth-place finish to begin the Santa Anita season in the seven-furlong La Brea Stakes (gr. I), Arnold Zetcher's homebred Always a Princess enjoyed the stretch-out in the El Encino under Bejarano and showed no signs of coming back to the field while recording an easy win. She was timed in an excellent 1:41.47.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the daughter of Leroidesanimaux won the Indiana Oaks (gr. II) on a sloppy track at Hoosier Park last fall for her only previous stakes win. Clearly the best she has ever been, Always a Princess has won four of eight starts while earning $426,048. Martin Garcia, who was aboard for the Hoosier race, replaces Bejarano.
Pam and Marty Wygod's homebred Harmonious can give trainer John Shirreffs his fourth win in the La Canada. He previously won it with Life Is Sweet for the Wygods in 2009, with Tarlow in 2005, and with Manistique in 1999.
Harmonious, making her first try on dirt, won Keenelands's Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (gr. IT) last fall prior to a horrendous trip in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) in which she was bumped in the stretch and faded after pulling early in the race. She finished 10th.
Harmonious and Rosario came up a nose short as the 3-10 favorite in Santa Anita’s Robert J. Frankel Stakes (gr. IIT) on New Year’s Day, nipped at the wire by Spring Style.
The Dynaformer miss also captured the American Oaks (gr. IT) at Hollywood Park last year. She has won four of eight starts and earned $532,420.
Harmonious recorded a bullet six-furlong drill over the main track in 1:10 4/5 Jan. 28.
Fashion Trend, third in the El Encino at 26-1 odds for the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust and trainer Craig Dollase, and Casner Racing's Life Well Lived, making her stakes debut for trainer Eoin Harty, complete the field.
$150,000 La Canada Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 4-Year-Old Fillies, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Fashion Trend (KY), V Espinoza, 118, C Dollase
2. Harmonious (KY), J Rosario, 123, J A Shirreffs
3. Always a Princess (KY), M Garcia, 123, B Baffert
4. Blind Luck (KY), R Bejarano, 123, J Hollendorfer
5. Life Well Lived (KY), P A Valenzuela, 118, E G Harty