12/03/2009 1:00AM

Ex-Calder claimer steps up to stakes

Tom Keyser
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will send out the 3-year-old filly Spirit Seeker for her West Coast debut Thursday in the Starine at Hollywood.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Jerry Hollendorfer is hoping to once again mine that Calder connection.

Earlier this year, Hollendorfer unearthed Blind Luck, who began her career at Calder in a maiden-claiming race. After being privately purchased, she was turned over to Hollendorfer and blossomed into one of the leading 2-year-old fillies in the nation, with a win in the Oak Leaf Stakes and a third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

He has gone back for more. Hollendorfer and a partner recently acquired a 50 percent interest in the 3-year-old filly Spirit Seeker, who rose from the maiden-claiming ranks to become a late-summer sensation at Calder, with wins in three of her last four starts and steadily increasing Beyer Speed Figures. She is now with Hollendorfer at Hollywood Park, and will make her West Coast debut here on Thursday in the $50,000 Starine Stakes.

"She improved her Beyers into the 100s, so we thought she was worth taking a chance with," Hollendorfer said. "We've breezed her a couple of times. She's trained well."

Spirit Seeker was bred by Herman Heinlen, who retains a 50 percent ownership in the filly. She has run 15 times this year, but took a leap forward in late summer. Only a nose loss to the stakes winner Sweet Repent has kept her from a four-race win streak.

The Starine is at one mile on turf. Spirit Seeker benefits by drawing the rail. But her only previous turf race resulted in a sixth-place finish in a maiden claimer at Gulfstream in April. That was long before she got good, but whether she will handle grass remains a question.

If she runs well on turf, it opens up new avenues for Spirit Seeker. But even if turf does not agree with her, Hollendorfer is hoping she can be a factor this winter at Santa Anita in the three-race La Canada series, which is for 4-year-old fillies of 2010.

Spirit Seeker's primary rival on Thursday may be Minute Limit, who finished fourth in the Grade 3 Harold Ramser Handicap at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting following a sharp victory against a first-level allowance field at Del Mar. Minute Limit ran well here last summer when dropping a nose decision in her United States debut.

Hermione's Magic, a winner of a second-level allowance at Oak Tree last time out, and Saucey Evening, who is seeking to recapture her fine 2008 form, are other top contenders in the 11-horse field.