Favored Blind Luck overcame a bad stumble at the start to collar Unrivaled Belle in the final strides for a half-length victory in the $333,900 La Troienne (gr. II) May 6, the first of five graded stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs (VIDEO).
Blind Luck, last year's North American champion 3-year-old filly, snapped a streak of five consecutive runner-up finishes and gained a measure of revenge over Unrivaled Belle, who upset her in last fall's Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) at Churchill.
Garrett Gomez rode 4-year-old Blind Luck to victory over the track at which she won the 2010 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) by a nose over Evening Jewel. The final time for the 1 1/16-mile La Troienne distance was a solid 1:42.93 over a fast track.
Jerry Hollendorfer trains the winning daughter of Pollard's Vision --Lucky One, by Best of Luck, after purchasing her privately following her impressive an 13 1/4-length debut win against $40,000 maiden claimers at Calder Race Course in June 2101. He owns the chestnut mare in partnership with Dr. Mark Dedomenico, John Carver, and Peter Abruzzo. Fairlawn Farm bred Blind Luck in Kentucky.
“We had trouble in the beginning, she overcame it and I am very proud of her," Hollendorfer said. "We never lost confidence in her (after five seconds). I always thought it was circumstances that prevented her from getting another win. We never gave up on her."
Blind Luck went to her knees leaving the gate in the La Troienne and trailed the field of eight older fillies and mares as Absinthe Minded, breaking from the far outside, went to the lead. Absinthe Minded maintained a 1 1/2-length advantage as Quiet Giant, Stage Magic and All Due Respect stalked through soft quarter-mile fractions of :24.32, :48.54 and 1:11.88.
All Due Respect, with Javier Castellano aboard took a short lead in stretch as Unrivaled Belle emerged from the pack on the outside to challenge at mid-stretch for Kent Desormeaux. Unrivaled Belle, who was shuffled back early before rallying, took over in the final furlong.
But Blind Luck, who trailed the field to the final turn, rallied six wide into the lane and drove for the finish widest of all for Gomez. She put a head in front of her rival in deep stretch and inched away approaching the wire under mild urging.
“She was standing good (at the start) and then for some reason she fell to her head," Gomez said. "But she got back up and got going. One of the positive things about it is that she wants to be back there (near the rear) anyway. I didn’t have to rush her, just sort of ease up to them. I picked them up without having to use her too much.
"She’s just a little filly, but she’s very agile. Thank goodness she didn’t grab a quarter. That way she was able to put out all the way and wasn’t running while she was trying to deal with some pain. When she came running late I still wasn’t sure if we’d get there. That other filly (Unrivaled Belle) is tough and a fighter, so I didn’t know if we were home or not. But my filly wants to win. She’s tough. And we got on by.”
Unrivaled Belle, the defending La Troienne winner who lost for the first time in three starts at Churchill, was a clear second by three lengths over All Due Respect. The latter held on for third by a nose over Absinthe Minded, who was followed by Ravi's Song, Quiet Giant, Stage Magic and Seeking the Title.
“She was very comfortable and relaxed well during the race," Desormeaux said of Unrivaled Belle. "We took dead aim on the leaders and got by them with relative ease. The winner came around me though and was just best today. My mare was full of run and she did her thing.”
Now two-for-three in her career at Churchill, Blind Luck picked up her first victory since taking Saratoga's Alabama Stakes (gr. I) last August and wrapping up divisional honors. Since then, she had posted consecutive second-place stakes finishes in the Cotillion (gr. II), BC Ladies Classic, El Encino (gr. II), La Canada (gr. II) and Azeri (gr. III), all as the favorite. She won for the first time in four starts in 2011.
Hollendorfer noted that his filly had not raced since Oaklawn Park's Azeri March 19.
"We gave her plenty of time to get ready this race," he said. "She came through for us big time."
Hollendorfer said Blind Luck would probably next run in the Vanity Handicap (gr. I) June 18 at Hollywood Park.
Never out of the money in 19 lifetime starts, Blind Luck's overall mark stands at 10-7-2 with earnings of $2,679,520. She earned $200,808 for the La Troienne win.
Blind Luck carried 119 pounds as the 7-5 favorite and paid $4.80, $2.60 and $2.20. Second choice Unrivaled Belle, the 123-pound top weight making her second start since the Ladies' Classic victory for trainer Bill Mott, returned $3.20 and $2.60. She rounded out an $11.80 exacta. All Due Respect was $5.80 to show.
Miss Luann scratched.