02/06/2010 1:00AM

Patience a big plus for Blind Luck

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Barbara D. Livingston
Blind Luck, an Eclipse finalist, makes her 3-year-old debut in the Grade 1 Las Virgenes at Santa Anita on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The patient style that Blind Luck showed during her 2-year-old campaign in 2009 has given jockey Rafael Bejarano ample confidence that the filly can continue among the best in her division in 2010.

The leading 3-year-old filly in California, Blind Luck will be heavily favored to win her third Grade 1 race in Saturday's $250,000 Las Virgenes Stakes at Santa Anita. Bejarano cannot envision any other result in the one-mile race. He was aboard for her last start, a seven-length win in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet Stakes in December.

"She can relax behind horses," he said. "That's why she exploded so strongly in the stretch. The good thing is she's not nervous in the post parade."

Owned by a partnership that includes trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Blind Luck has already proven to adore Santa Anita's synthetic main track. Last fall, in two starts here, she won the Grade 1 Oak Leaf Stakes and was a game third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

"She hasn't regressed," Hollendorfer said. "We think she's trained forwardly. She's kept her [weight] and her color."

The Las Virgenes is the only Grade 1 of the five stakes on Saturday's 10-race program. The Grade 2, $200,000 Strub Stakes for 4-year-olds and the Grade 2, $150,000 Robert Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds are the other major stakes. There are two turf stakes - the $65,000 Leroidesanimaux Stakes and the $60,000 Wishing Well Handicap - but expected rain could force those races to the main track.

Blind Luck is part of a field of six in the Las Virgenes, the afternoon's fourth race. Crisp (Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes), Evening Jewel (California Breeders' Champion Stakes) and La Nez (California Cup Juvenile Fillies) are the other stakes winners in the field. Switch, third in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes last month, and the maiden winner Summer Games will be longshots trying to reach that level.

The field could be reduced to five starters if significant rain falls. Trainer Eric Kruljac said he is not certain La Nez would start in those conditions.

"If it looks the least bit unsafe, I won't run," Kruljac said. "I'll have to make my own judgement."

Blind Luck has won 4 of 6 starts and $709,050. A finalist for the 2009 Eclipse Award as outstanding 2-year-old filly, Blind Luck is proven around two turns. In her two stakes wins, she settled without difficulty at the back of the field and ran brilliantly through the stretch.

"I think there is some speed in there to set it up," Hollendorfer said. "Rafael knows the filly well."

Bejarano worked Blind Luck last summer before she made her California debut, but did not ride her until December after he lost the mount when he was injured last July. The filly who arrived in California after a 13-length win in a maiden claimer at Calder last June is not the same filly that won the Starlet, he said.

"She looks different than she did last year," Bejarano said. "She's doing phenomenal. She's been training good in the morning. Hopefully, she can win easy like she did last time."

Trainer John Sadler has the best chances for an upset, starting Switch and Crisp. Switch will be part of the pace, along with Summer Games, who has never raced beyond six furlongs. In the seven-furlong Santa Ynez on Jan. 16, Switch had the early lead but faded to finish third under Bejarano. Tyler Baze rides Switch in the Las Virgenes.

"She's fast enough," Sadler said. "She took off a little with Bejarano the other day and kind of got away from him, but she can relax. Tyler should be able to handle her in front."

Crisp is proven around two turns, having won a maiden race and the Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes in her last two starts. She finished a length in front of Evening Jewel in the Santa Ysabel over 1 1/16 miles, and will be a threat from well off the pace in the Las Virgenes.

"It might be a little short for her," Sadler said. "We'd prefer further."

Despite speaking confidently about his fillies, Sadler acknowledges Blind Luck's ability.

Blind Luck, said Sadler, "definitely deserves to be the heavy favorite. If we can get a second or third, that's not so bad. I can't emphasize how important the Grade 1 is with these fillies."