06/16/2011 3:33PM

Hollywood Park: West Coast's best older females face off in Vanity


INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The list of hopefuls includes a champion, a multiple Grade 1 winner, and a mare who adores the track. Blind Luck, Switch, and St Trinians are the three leading contenders in Saturday’s $250,000 Vanity Handicap at Hollywood Park, a race that should help clarify the West Coast older female division.

A Grade 1 run over 1 1/8 miles, the Vanity brings together those three mares for the first time as well as three others capable of influencing the outcome – Miss Match, who won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Invitational in a 45-1 upset at Santa Anita in March; American Story, expected to set the pace; and the outsider She’s Cheeky, who has shown the ability to run a big race at times.

Bettors will focus on Blind Luck, Switch, and St Trinians, with Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2010, expected to go favored.

“The thing about this race is how strong it is,” said John Sadler, who trains Switch. “You’ve got the big three. They’re proven, they’re tough, they’re battle-tested. It will be hard to catch those three. Blind Luck is Blind Luck. This is St Trinians’s course.”

Blind Luck, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, won her last start in the Grade 2 La Troienne Stakes over 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs on May 6. The race was her first victory in four starts, all in stakes, this year, and gave Hollendorfer’s team confidence that Blind Luck is back to her 2010 form, when she won five graded stakes.

“At Santa Anita, she wasn’t training as good as she is now,” said Dan Ward, Hollendorfer’s assistant. “Her feet were not as good as they are now. She loves this track. We can’t pull her up” in her workouts.

Blind Luck has drawn the outside post in the field and is a closer. The Vanity will be the third consecutive race in which jockey Garrett Gomez has ridden Blind Luck. He rode her to a second in the Grade 3 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park in March behind Havre de Grace and was aboard in the La Troienne.

“He knows what he’s doing,” Ward said of Gomez. “He looks like he moved a little earlier last time. She was starting to run at the three-eighths pole.”

St Trinians finished first in the Grade 2 Milady Handicap here May 21, but was disqualified and placed fourth for causing interference in the stretch. American Story and She’s Cheeky finished third and fourth in the Milady and were moved up one placing each because of the disqualification. In 2010, St Trinians finished second to Horse of the Year Zenyatta in the Vanity.

For Saturday’s Vanity, St Trinians will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano in place of Joe Talamo. Trainer Mike Mitchell has had Bejarano work St Trinians in recent weeks.

“She’s worked well,” Mitchell said. “I couldn’t have her training better. Rafael’s been out to work her twice.”

Talamo rides Miss Match, who followed her surprise win in the Santa Margarita with a fourth behind Havre de Grace in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom Handicap. Trained by Neil Drysdale, Miss Match drew the rail and is expected to race from off the pace.

Switch should be close to American Story, depending on how quickly the pace unfolds. Switch, who will be ridden by regular rider Joel Rosario, is winless in two starts over 1 1/8 miles, but was beaten just a head by Miss Match in the Santa Margarita.

“I think she can handle the distance,” Rosario said. “I think I can get her a little more relaxed. I have all the confidence. Last time, we got beat by a good horse.”

Every scenario makes for an intriguing stretch run, one in which it is easy to envision several of the fillies and mares closely grouped with a furlong remaining.

“They’re all good horses,” Ward said. “Switch is a good horse, and St Trinians is a good horse. They’re ready for their best races, and so are we.”