05/04/2011 2:02PM

Churchill Downs: Blind Luck, Unrivaled Belle seek to regain good form in La Troienne


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The fine performances of one-two finishers Unrivaled Belle and Blind Luck in the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic – followed by the retirement of Horse of The Year Zenyatta – seemingly pointed toward their dominance in the filly and mare ranks this year.

Yet somehow, six months later, both Unrivaled Belle and Blind Luck have not won since. Unrivaled Belle ran third, beaten 10 1/4 lengths, in her lone start when returning in the Grade 3 Rampart at Gulfstream Park on April 2; and Blind Luck has run second in all three of her races this year, falling short of Always a Princess twice in graded company at Santa Anita this past winter and then to Havre De Grace in the Grade 3 Azeri on March 19 at Oaklawn.

Friday at Churchill Downs, in the first of five undercard stakes that precede the Kentucky Oaks, they have their shot to get back on course in the Grade 2, $300,000 La Troienne Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the Churchill main track.

In the case of the late-running Blind Luck, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is hopeful for a change in fortune with the return to Churchill Downs, where Blind Luck won the Kentucky Oaks last spring, a victory that helped catapult her toward an eventual 3-year-old filly championship.

“She hasn’t run on a track favorable to her all year,” he said.

Blind Luck seems headed in the right direction. After posting Beyer Speed Figures of 84 and 85 in running second in the El Encino and La Canada at Santa Anita, she stepped up to a 99 Beyer when second to eventual Apple Blossom winner Havre de Grace in the Azeri.

Garrett Gomez, who rode Blind Luck for the first time in the Azeri, returns in the irons.

Unrivaled Belle is also returning to a Churchill track over which she has been successful – perfect, in fact. Besides her victory in the Ladies’ Classic last year, she won this race last year, edging 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

As for her performance in the Rampart, trainer Bill Mott said she was keener early than he would have preferred, but otherwise offered no excuse.

She chased the leader, and after collaring that rival, offered little fight when passed by victorious Awesome Maria and runner-up Successful Song leaving the final turn.

Mott said she has trained well leading into the La Troienne, just as she had going into the Rampart – the difference being that she is not returning from a layoff this time.

“We know she’s had a race – so from a conditioning point of view she should be fitter,” he said.

Regular jockey Kent Desormeaux rides.

Despite the accomplishments of Blind Luck and Unrivaled Belle – who have combined to earn more than $4 million – seven other fillies and mares were entered to oppose them.

Besides the rich $300,000 purse of the race, the La Troienne gives horsemen a chance to give their fillies experience at Churchill Downs – where, for the second consecutive year, the Breeders’ Cup will again be held.

All Due Respect and Ravi’s Song head the opposition.

All Due Respect, who comes off a stakes win in the Ocala Stakes on March 27 for trainer Rick Dutrow – has Michael Nevin as her official trainer of record following Dutrow’s denial of a racing license last month by the Kentucky Racing Commission.

Ravi’s Song, meanwhile, won two consecutive stakes at Fair Grounds this past winter.

Following a series of quick workouts from her at Churchill Downs, “I’m running with confidence,” trainer Carl Bowman said.