The magnificent Blind Luck made Jerry Hollendorfer's 65th birthday a special one when she rallied from last in the stretch to capture the $250,000 Vanity Handicap (gr. I) June 18 at Hollywood Park (VIDEO).
The win, Blind Luck's 11th in 20 lifetime races, was her sixth grade I triumph and puts her squarely in the mix in any discussion of the top female handicap horse in the country.
Garrett Gomez guided the 4-year-old daughter of Pollard's Vision to victory by a half-length over her rival Switch, who could not match the late-charging winner in the final strides. Miss Match, winner of the Santa Margarita Handicap (gr. I) this spring, finished a close third, a neck behind the runner-up.
The win was the first in the Vanity for both Gomez and Hollendorfer. It was also the first time since 2008 the race wasn't won by last year's Horse of the Year, Zenyatta.
Hollendorfer, who purchased Blind Luck privately after her maiden win by 13 1/4 lengths at Calder Race Course in June 2009, owns the filly in partnership with Peter Abruzzo, John Carver, and Dr. Mark DeDomenico. Blind Luck won the Eclipse Award last year as the nation's leading 3-year-old filly.
Fairlawn Farm bred Blind Luck in Kentucky. The smallish chestnut filly is out of Lucky One, by Best of Luck.
The final time for the 1 1/8-mile Vanity was 1:50.89 on Hollywood's Cushion Track.
Hollendorfer told TVG after the race that Blind Luck would be pointed to the $750,000 Delaware Handicap (gr. II) July 16 at Delaware Park. If so, she would likely face Havre de Grace, generally considered the best of the female handicap division after she easily handled Blind Luck in the Azeri Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park March 19.
He amended his earlier comment later with reporters, however.
"We had kind of targeted the Delaware Handicap because it’s a big purse, but depending on how everything goes we might wait for Del Mar," Hollendorfer said. "I’m not opposed to the synthetic but I think earlier in the year she might not have gotten tracks that she liked and her feet might have been bugging her a little. I think she’s 100% today. I’m so pleased to have a horse that’s lasted like this and kept her enthusiasm for racing.”
Since her loss in the Azeri, Blind Luck appears to have returned to top form. She captured the La Troienne Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs May 7 in spite of stumbling badly at the start of the race and closing six-wide to outfight Unbridled Belle by a half-length. That ended a run of five consecutive runner-up finishes for Blind Luck in which she was often victimized by a lack of pace.
In the Vanity, it looked like she could have been in for more of the same. Blind Luck, the narrow second choice, dropped back to last in the field of six for Gomez as American Story jumped quickly to the lead and slowed the tempo to a crawl. The first quarter-mile was run in a dawdling :25.52, the half-mile was :50.24, and six furlongs were completed in 1:14.56 as American Story maintained the advantage over She's Cheeky and the Argentine mare Miss Match.
Switch, the slight 3-2 favorite, stalked in fourth after pulling jockey Joel Rosario through the first portion of the race. She rallied strongly, angling four-wide out of the final turn to challenge 58-1 shot She's Cheeky, who took the lead by a head at mid-stretch over American Story. Switch charged from between horses to bid for the lead in the final eighth along with Miss Match, who was right there as well for jockey Joe Talamo.
But in her typical style, Blind Luck had angled to the far outside for the drive and she quickly gathered momentum. Still last with a furlong to run, she blew by them all in deep stretch to prevail gamely under Gomez, who barely went to the whip.
“I wasn’t happy (with the pace), but I didn’t have much ground to make up," Gomez noted. "I just couldn’t get her tucked in exactly the way I wanted. Rafael (Bejarano on St Trinians) kind of pushed me outside of Switch, but then in spots I was able to get behind them and she was traveling OK.
"She kind of travels pretty much the same where ever she is. The one thing that I was real confident in was that I only had a length to catch up to Switch. So I felt if we turned for home together or me giving her two or three lengths, I could still run her down. She loves to run in the lane and she has a heck of a turn of foot."
Blind Luck earned $150,000 for the victory to extend her career total to $2,829,520. Sent off at odds of 9-5, she paid $5.60, $2.80, and $2.20 as the 123-pound high weight.
“I was a little nervous (because of the pace) but I think Garrett (Gomez) was a little bit closer today than he ordinarily would have been," Hollendorfer said. "The only thing I said to him before the race was just to try to watch the pace and see what happens. He watched it pretty well and got a good run on them coming for home."
Switch, who was runner-up to Have de Grace in Oaklawn's Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) in her most recent start for trainer John Sadler, returned $2.80 and $2.20. The exacta was worth $12.80.
“She fired again, but Blind Luck is a pretty good horse," Rosario said of the runner-up. "I knew that Blind Luck and St Trinians were behind me and I thought I would be able to outfinish them. She tried hard but I think she was just second best today.”
Miss Match, who was fourth in the Apple Blossom, paid $4.20 to show after getting the lead briefly.