04/08/2011 2:58PM

Blind Luck likely to return to Oaklawn for the Apple Blossom


HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – As one of the elite races on the calendar for fillies and mares, the Apple Blossom tends to draw its share of champions. That should again be the case this year as trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said Friday that Blind Luck will likely make her next start in the Grade 1, $500,000 race at Oaklawn.

“I’m planning on it,” Hollendorfer said of next Friday’s Apple Blossom. “But I’m waiting on the weights.”

The Apple Blossom has reverted back to handicap status after being run as a stakes last year in an attempt to bring Zenyatta and Rachel Alexandra together in a matchup that ultimately did not materialize. The race’s distance has also been returned to its traditional mile and a sixteenth, after being run over a mile and an eighth last year when won by champion Zenyatta.

Hollendorfer said Garrett Gomez would ride Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2010, if she goes in the Apple Blossom. The jockey was aboard her last out in the Grade 3, $150,000 Azeri at Oaklawn, when Blind Luck finished second to Havre de Grace, who is also pointing for the Apple Blossom.

Adding further depth to the race will be Miss Match and Switch, who finished one-two in the Grade  1 Santa Margarita at Santa Anita on March 12. Neil Drysdale, who trains Miss Match, said Calvin Borel has the mount in the Apple Blossom. She is to travel to town Tuesday, as part of a Tex Sutton flight bringing runners in from Southern California.

Switch, meanwhile, will be ridden by Joel Rosario, said her trainer, John Sadler. Sadler said there were a number of different reasons to target the Apple Blossom.

“We were looking to travel with her once this year, then bring her back for Hollywood and Del Mar,” he said of plans leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. “We think it’s a good distance for her as well.”

Other potential Apple Blossom starters include Absinthe Minded, Decelerator, Sarah’s Song and Satans Quick Chick. Entries for the race will be taken on Tuesday.

The Apple Blossom is part of the annual Racing Festival of the South, when Oaklawn runs nine stakes over the final week of the meet. Purses for those races will total more than $2.7  million.

Smiling Tiger sharp for Count Fleet

Smiling Tiger breezed a half-mile in 47.60 seconds Friday morning at Oaklawn in preparation for the Grade 3, $200,000 Count Fleet Sprint on Thursday. He was ridden by Oaklawn-based jockey Luis Quinonez. Rosario, who was aboard the horse for Smiling Tiger’s win in the Grade 2 San Carlos last out at Santa Anita, has the mount in the Count Fleet.

“He worked great, galloped out good,” said Quinonez, who is a friend of Smiling Tiger’s trainer, Jeff Bonde. “He’s a nice horse. He’s a Cadillac.”

Oaklawn head clocker Jim Hamilton timed Smiling Tiger in 13 seconds for the opening eighth of a mile, 25 seconds for the first quarter, 36.60 for three furlongs, and galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.

The Count Fleet field could also include Chief of Affairs, Holyfield, Native Ruler, and Riley Tucker. Defending champ Custom for Carlos will not go, said his trainer, Eddie Kenneally.

Large field for Arkansas Derby

The field for the Grade 1, $1  million Arkansas Derby on April  16 is coming together, with Oaklawn racing secretary Pat Pope looking for a field of 12 as of Friday. It will be headed by The Factor, who is to return to Oaklawn after shipping in from his Southern California base last month and winning the Grade 2, $300,000 Rebel.

“He leaves on Tuesday,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who said Martin Garcia has the return call.

Other potential starters include Archarcharch, Astrology, Brethren, Caleb’s Posse, Elite Alex, J P’s Gusto, Nehro, and Sway Away.

A flight bringing horses from Florida is set for Monday.

Oaklawn has a special Wednesday card April 13. The feature is the $100,000 Redbud.