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BLIND LUCK TAKES AIM AT B/C LADIES’ CLASSIC AS SANTA ANITA PRESENTS FOUR GRADE I STAKES ON SATURDAY’S BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE DAY OCT. 1
ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 27, 2011) – Stretch-running distaff sensation Blind Luck, arguably North America’s most exciting Thoroughbred since Zenyatta, takes dead aim Saturday at the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic with her final dress rehearsal in Santa Anita’s Grade I, $250,000 Lady’s Secret Stakes for fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles.
The Lady’s Secret is one of four Grade I stakes races on Breeders’ Cup Challenge Day at Santa Anita with each competition offering “Win and You’re In” entrée into racing’s championship event that spans two days and concludes Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs in Kentucky. Each of the Challenge Day stakes offers a purse of $250,000.
The Goodwood, at 1 1-8 miles, is for open competition and its nine entrants include 2011 Santa Anita Handicap champion Game On Dude. Horse of the Year prospect Acclamation was entered in the Goodwood, but trainer Don Warren has said last month’s Grade I Pacific Classic winner is more likely to run in Sunday’s Grade II Clement L. Hirsch Turf Championship at 1 ¼ miles.
The Norfolk, for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, reunites Drill and Creative Cause, one-two finishers earlier this month in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity. The Yellow Ribbon Stakes presented by Emirates Airline has attracted a deeply contentious field of nine fillies and mares who will compete over 1¼ miles on turf.
But for all the star power assembled on an 11-race program with first post at 1 p.m., trainer and co-owner Jerry Hollendorfer’s brilliant 4-year-old filly Blind Luck will attract the most attention. The 3-year-old filly champion of 2010, Blind Luck has never finished off the board in 21 starts and is on a roll.
Although a series of five straight second-place finishes that began late last year left fans wondering about the extent of her renowned closing kick, Blind Luck has shaken the bugaboo under the guidance of jockey Garrett Gomez. Three straight off-the-pace victories with Gomez aboard have elevated her earnings to $3,279,520 from a career record of 12-7-2.
She has thus taken the upper hand in her thrilling rivalry with the speedy Eastern-based Havre de Grace, going up 4-2 with a nose triumph in her last start, the Grade II Delaware Handicap on July 16. The Delaware Park race marked the ninth time in 15 months that the hardy Blind Luck had traveled cross-country to compete. “She’s handled every track that she’s ever run on,” noted Hollendorfer, a recent Hall of Fame inductee and one of the sport’s four trainers to have saddled more than 6,000 winners.
Gomez, the Eclipse Award winning jockey of 2007 and 2008, seems a perfect fit. “The first time Garrett rode her (second in the March 19 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park), he didn’t know her very well,” Hollendorfer said, “but right after that, I think he’s gotten to where he knows her very well. He knows when to move her, and Garrett’s a guy who watches the pace very well. And he can finish on one, so that’s what we’re looking for.”
A daughter of Pollard’s Vision, a $10,000 stallion who is blind in his right eye, Blind Luck sold for $11,000 as a yearling and debuted in a $40,000 claiming race. She won by 13 ¼ lengths going 4 ½ furlongs in a field of 10. The chestnut filly has come to be described as “The Little Engine That Could,” one of the great overachievers in racing history.
“We keep loving her for everything she’s done,” Hollendorfer told The Blood-Horse magazine. “The good ones find a way to get the job done, and we’re very proud of her for trying her best no matter where we’ve run her. I don’t know how she keeps managing to win those photos. She’s just that kind of horse. She’s able to time it when she runs down the lane.”
Blind Luck’s most interesting adversary among seven entrants in the day’s sixth race is Ask the Moon, shipped West for the Lady’s Secret by Eastern-based trainer Marty Wolfson. The 6-year-old mare, claimed in June by Farnsworth Stables for $75,000, ran off with a pair of Grade I stakes at Saratoga this summer. She won the Ruffian Invitational and Personal Ensign in front-running style by a combined 8 ½ lengths without being seriously threatened. Martin Garcia will ride her on Saturday. Ask the Moon has banked $713,640 in her career from a 10-5-7 mark in 32 starts.
Among the others, California-bred Ultra Blend is coming off a 10-1 upset victory in Del Mar’s Grade I Clement L. Hirsch Stakes on Aug. 6 when she defeated Zazu by a neck. The latter, a 3-year-old who won the Grade II Hollywood Oaks and the Grade I Las Virgenes at Santa Anita earlier this year, returns for trainer John Sadler.
The complete field for the Lady’s Secret Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Blind Luck, Garrett Gomez, 124; Champagne d’Oro, Joseph Talamo, 119; Ask the Moon, Martin Garcia, 124; Love Theway Youare, Christian Santiago Reyes, 116; Great Hot, Chantal Sutherland, 116; Ultra Blend, David Flores, 124, and Zazu, Joel Rosario, 118.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has saddled the winners of nine Triple Crown races and seven Breeders’ Cup events, but the Breeders’ Cup Classic has eluded the three-time winner of the Kentucky Derby. Baffert hopes to move a step closer to that goal when he double teams the Goodwood with Coil, a romping winner of the $1 million Haskell Invitational, as well as with Game On Dude.
Since the 4-year-old gelding’s victory in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap, Game On Dude has gone winless in four starts while getting nosed out by stablemate First Dude in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup and most recently fading to fourth behind Acclamation in the $1 million Pacific Classic at Del Mar on Aug. 28. Chantal Sutherland, who had to wait 12 minutes after the Santa Anita Handicap for resolution of a bumping incident, will again ride the 4-year-old son of Awesome Again who has banked $1,084,658 with a 4-3-1 mark in 12 lifetime starts.
A 3-year-old who will be facing older horses for the first time, Coil followed up his sparkling victory in the Grade I Haskell at Monmouth Park with a listless last-place finish in the Grade I Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 27. After rallying from last in the Haskell, the son of Point Given was virtually eased in the Travers. “He never got out of there,” said Baffert. “I was worried that something might have happened to him, but he’s fine. He’s still a young horse and we’re learning about him.” A winner of 4 of 7 starts and $752,560 for the partnership of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Coil will be ridden by Garcia.
Third behind Curlin in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Monmouth Park, multi-millionaire Awesome Gem remains a competitive force at the age of 8. The chestnut gelding, who missed by a nose to Tiago in the 2007 Goodwood, is back again following a victory in the Grade III Longacres Mile at Emerald Downs on Aug. 21.
David Flores, who has ridden Awesome Gem 23 times including his debut on July 9, 2006 at Hollywood Park, will be in his familiar spot atop the Awesome Again offspring on Saturday for West Point Thoroughbreds. Awesome Gem enters this Goodwood, the afternoon’s seventh race, with earnings of $2,688,270 from a 9-14-5 showing in 46 career starts.
The complete field for the Goodwood Stakes, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Acclamation, Patrick Valenzuela, 124; Coil, Garcia, 121; Tres Borrachos, Rosario, 119; Preamble, Victor Espinoza, 119; Golden Itiz, Talamo, 119; Miss Match, Gomez, 121; Awesome Gem, David Flores, 119; Game On Dude, Sutherland, 121, and Nijinsky’s Song, no rider, 116. (note: If Acclamation is scratched as expected, Valenzuela would ride Nijinsky’s Song).
Baffert is expected to have considerable influence on the Norfolk, an event he has won a record five times, with Drill, owned by the partnership that races Coil. The son of Lawyer Ron is coming off his best effort by far, a neck victory at 4-1 odds in the Grade I Del Mar Futurity. The race on Sept. 7 was impacted by a bumping incident in deep stretch.
So impressive was Drill’s showing in the Del Mar Futurity that he has been elevated to 5-1 favoritism for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in Las Vegas’ Wynn/Encore future book. He, too, would be considered the early choice for next year’s Kentucky Derby.
Despite getting banged around in the final sixteenth, Drill proved best by a neck over previously unbeaten Majestic City in the Futurity. The latter was disqualified and placed third behind previously unbeaten Creative Cause, the 9-10 race favorite who checked in one-length behind the winner. Garcia, who dropped his whip in the Futurity, will be back aboard the $300,000 sales purchase who has won 2 of 3 starts for $188,150.
Creative Cause, a son of Giant’s Causeway conditioned by Mike Harrington for Heinz Steinmann, entered the Del Mar Futurity on the heels of a dominant victory in Del Mar’s Grade II Best Pal Stakes. Regular rider Rafael Bejarano will try to get the gray colt back on top among six entrants in the Norfolk.
The complete field for the Norfolk Stakes, with jockeys in post position order (each entrant carries 122 pounds): Super Candy, Hector Berrios; Loukas, Valenzuela; Ruler of Dubai, Mike Smith; Creative Cause, Rosario; Drill, Garcia, and Basmati, Talamo.
The Yellow Ribbon presented by Emirates Airline will be contested as the 10th race, and the contention appears solid from top to bottom. British-bred filly Dubawi Heights may warrant slight favoritism.
Trained and co-owned by Simon Callaghan, Dubawi Heights had a four-race winning streak severed in the Grade I Beverly D Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 13. She nevertheless finished second to an international star, favored French import Stacelita, a multi-millionaire who was winning her ninth race in 14 starts.
With Joel Rosario in the saddle, Dubawi Heights set all the pace over a yielding turf course before being run down in the final sixteenth by Stacelita. “She responded well,” Rosario said afterward, “but the winner is just so good that our best wasn’t good enough today.”
Prior to the $750,000 Beverly D, Dubawi Heights’ four-race winning streak had extended through Hollywood Park’s Grade III Wilshire Handicap and the Grade I Gamely. Rosario again will ride the 4-year-old bay whose 4-4-1 record in 13 starts has earned $797,696, the highest among Yellow Ribbon starters.
Her accomplished opposition includes multiple stakes winning Irish-bred Cambina, winner of Hollywood Park’s Grade I American Oaks in a dead-heat with Nereid; Hollendorfer’s City to City, recent winner of the Grade II Palomar Handicap at Del Mar; Cozi Rosie, who won Del Mar’s Grade II John C, Mabee Stakes in her last out; Harmonious, the 2010 American Oaks champion; Malibu Pier, a three-time graded stakes winner; Medaglia d’Amour, second in the Palomar and a winner of the 2010 Wilshire Handicap, and Turning Top, winner of Hollywood Park’s Grade III Beverly Hills Handicap in 2010 to climax a four-race victory streak.
The complete field for the Yellow Ribbon Stakes presented by Emirates Airline: Turning Top, Flores, 119; Cozi Rosie, Gomez, 121; Dubawi Heights, Rosario, 124; Malibu Pier, Brice Blanc, 121; City to City, Smith, 119; Private Affair, Berrios, 119; Harmonious, Garcia, 121; Cambina, Valenzuela, 121, and Medaglia d’Amour, Talamo, 119.