02/04/2010 12:00AM

Blind Luck everything her team had hoped for


ARCADIA, Calif. - Dan Ward could not reach for his cell phone fast enough.

As assistant trainer in Southern California for Jerry Hollendorfer, Ward was the first person on the team to see Blind Luck when she arrived from Florida last summer after a private purchase.

Ward was anxious to share his opinion with the boss, who that day was at his Bay Area base. "She had a lot of body to fill into," Ward told Hollendorfer. "She's all legs."

Seven months later, Blind Luck has filled into her body, and those legs have propelled her to accomplishments that Hollendorfer and Ward only hoped for.

Blind Luck, who began her career in a modest maiden claimer in south Florida, has developed into one of the nation's leading 3-year-old fillies this winter, one expected to play a major role in the build-up for the Kentucky Oaks on April 30. Owned by Hollendorfer, John Carver, and Mark DeDomenico, Blind Luck makes her 3-year-old debut in Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile at Santa Anita.

The Las Virgenes will be Blind Luck's fifth consecutive start in a Grade 1 and could be her third win at that level.

"What's exciting is what she's accomplished," Hollendorfer said. "The thrill of being in horse racing for me is trying to buy a good horse and following through and having them be successful. It makes you feel that you knew what you were doing."

Blind Luck's ascension from her arrival at Hollendorfer's stable to a prohibitive favorite in the Las Virgenes has been a classic example of Hollendorfer's measured approach to the sport. In each of her four starts in Grade 1 races, she has improved or encountered trouble.

In her Grade 1 debut, Blind Luck was third in the Darley Debutante over seven furlongs last September. That was followed by a convincing win in the Oak Leaf Stakes over 1 1/16 miles here in October.

In the division's biggest race of the year, Blind Luck was third, beaten three-quarters of a length, in the over 1 1/16 miles on Dec. 20.

How much Blind Luck can accomplish in 2010 is impossible to predict, but Hollendorfer said he wants to keep her against 3-year-old fillies - for now. Beyond Saturday, Hollendorfer has his eye on the $250,000 Santa Anita Oaks on March 6, which is about as far into the future as he is willing to venture.

"We have enough ego that we nominated for the Kentucky Derby," Hollendorfer said last weekend. "I'd like to get past the race this week first."

As for a try against males in a Kentucky Derby prep or the Kentucky Derby itself, Hollendorfer backs off, choosing to admire 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, who became the first filly to win the Preakness Stakes last spring.

"I think horses like Rachel are rare opportunities," he said. "Unless the circumstances warrant it, I like to accomplish goals with Blind Luck within the filly ranks."

Ward predicts Hollendorfer will aim Blink Luck for the Kentucky Oaks, which Hollendorfer won with Lite Light in 1991 and Pike Place Dancer in 1996.

"If he's won a race in the past, he likes to point for that," Ward said. "The race in Kentucky is very important for the breeders. They're all there."

Ward's early impressions of Blind Luck's physical ability were confirmed by jockey Rafael Bejarano. He worked her last summer at Hollywood Park and laughed when Ward said she was bound for a starter allowance in her California debut, a conveniently easy spot following her win in a maiden claimer.

"She'll win by 40," Ward remembers Bejarano saying.

Because of injuries suffered in July, Bejarano did not ride Blind Luck in her California debut July 29, when she won the starter allowance by 3 1/4 lengths. He rode her for the first time in the Starlet.

By then, her value had skyrocketed from the modest start of her career.

Jim Hatchett trained Blind Luck for owner Juvenal Diaz for her first start last summer. Blind Luck won her debut for $40,000 maiden claimers over 4 1/2 furlongs by 13 1/4 lengths. The next day, as Hatchett expected, the phone rang with offers.

Hatchett, 65, trains several 2-year-olds for breeders and pinhookers who are always looking to sell.

"What was going through our mind was to win a race and sell her," Hatchett said. "We knew she was worth way above what we ran her for.

"A lot of times, I sell them before I get to the winner's circle," he said. "Everybody watches. A majority of the good horses that run down here early are bought and go other places. The owner knew Hollendorfer and had done business with him in the past. Everybody wanted her."

A private deal was quickly completed, allowing Blind Luck to be sent to California.

"I didn't really negotiate," Hollendorfer said. "They stated a price, and I was agreeable with the price. We stepped up and bought her."

Blind Luck can essentially claim the top seed in the division with a win in the Las Virgenes. Last weekend, She Be Wild, the winner of the BC Juvenile Fillies and the champion 2-year-old filly of 2009, was fifth in the Grade 2 Forward Gal at Gulfstream Park.

Hollendorfer insists he was not discouraged that Blind Luck's 2-year-old campaign did not include a championship despite winning two Grade 1 races.

"She Be Wild beat us," he said. "That's all in the past."

It is Blind Luck's future, starting with Saturday's Las Virgenes Stakes, that is more on Hollendorfer's mind.