05/06/2011 2:35PM

La Troienne: Blind Luck rallies to nip Unrivaled Belle

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Barbara D. Livingston
Blind Luck (middle) stumbles out of the gate at the start of the La Troienne on Friday at Churchill. She recovered to win the race by a half-length.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Last year in the Kentucky Oaks, late-running Blind Luck needed the entire length of the Churchill Downs stretch to win by a nose over Evening Jewel.

In the Grade 2, $333,900 La Troienne Stakes, the first of six stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill, her race was a virtual repeat, only this time she got up perhaps a few strides before the wire, edging defending champion Unrivaled Belle by a half-length.

The finish was a reversal of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic, which Unrivaled Belle won over Blind Luck.

Blind Luck’s chances of beating her rival didn’t look promising at the start, when she stumbled of the gate and found herself in last as longshot Absinthe Minded set modest splits of 24.32 seconds and 48.54 in the 1 1/16-mile race.

But Unrivaled Belle - carrying highweight of 123 pounds, four pounds more than Blind Luck - also had a troubled trip, breaking slowly and racing wide in sixth place early.

In the end, the two fillies showed their class by surging into contention in the stretch, with Blind Luck gradually moving past Unrivaled Belle late under Garrett Gomez.

“Well, that was a little nerve-racking at the beginning,” winning trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “But Garrett Gomez is a world-class rider. He saved some ground with her early, moved her a little earlier than usual, and that helped us win the race.”

Blind Luck, a 4-year-old daughter of Pollard’s Vision owned a partnership that includes Hollendorfer, raced 1 1/16 miles on a fast Churchill Downs track in 1:42.93. She paid $4.80.

Three lengths behind Unrivaled Belle, All Due Respect closed from midpack to grab third, outnodding pacesetting Absinthe Minded on the wire.

Hollendorfer said the La Troienne made him proud of his filly after critics had questioned if she had tailed off from her 3-year-old championship form of last year. She had been second as the favorite in all three prior races this year.

“Not I or anyone in our barn lost confidence in her at all,” he said.