LOUISVILLE — On Wednesday afternoon, as undefeated champion Zenyatta was schooling in the Churchill Downs paddock, a smallish chestnut filly was schooling with decidedly less fanfare.
She didn't garner any wide-eyed gawks, respectful cheers or much, if any, camera time.
But the filly being ignored was the same one who captured fans' attention about six months earlier.
Kentucky Oaks winner Blind Luck won't have to share the stage with Zenyatta on Friday, but the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained 3-year-old will have her plate full trying to run down 10 accomplished rivals in the $2 million Ladies' Classic, which headlines the opening day of the Breeders' Cup World Championships.
The 11⁄8-mile Ladies' Classic is one of six Cup races Friday, along with the Marathon, Juvenile Fillies Turf, Filly and Mare Sprint, Juvenile Fillies, and Filly and Mare Turf.
Blind Luck received ample affection on April 30 when the daughter of Pollard's Vision mounted a last-to-first rally to win the Kentucky Oaks by a nose over Evening Jewel.
Blind Luck has won two of her four subsequent starts, including the Grade I Alabama Stakes and Grade II Delaware Oaks.
No 3-year-old filly has won the Ladies' Classic (formerly known as the Distaff) since Ashado in 2004. But with nine wins and zero off-the-board efforts in 14 career starts, Blind Luck was made a 9-5 morning-line favorite.
"Blind Luck is obviously one of the fillies to beat," said Rick Dutrow, trainer of Grade II winner Acting Happy. "Boy, she's really had a big year and you don't see too many horses accomplish what she has, shipping all over the country and winning in all these different spots."
Beneath Blind Luck's slight build is a battle-tough warrior who has raced at seven tracks this season over dirt and synthetic. She's won five times in eight starts, including three Grade I victories. Four of her wins have come in photo finishes, including victories over fellow Ladies' Classic contender Havre de Grace in the Grade II Delaware Oaks and the Grade I Alabama Stakes.
Like Zenyatta, Blind Luck's modus operandi is to drop to the back of the field and mow down her challengers late. Unlike Zenyatta, it gets her beat sometimes — as it did when Havre de Grace got her by a neck in the Fitz Dixon Cotillion on Oct. 2. On that occasion, however, she was carrying 10 more pounds than her rival.
"We used that race as a prep and have no excuses," said Hollendorfer, who also co-owns Blind Luck. "We got done what we had to do. She stays happy. She's light-boned and feminine but she's easy on herself."
In addition to the improving Havre de Grace, who has also not been off the board in seven career starts, Blind Luck will face a two-pronged Todd Pletcher-trained attack in Grade I winners Life At Ten and Malibu Prayer.
Previously just a solid allowance horse, Life At Ten is running the best races of her life at age 5. The daughter of Malibu Moon won her first graded stakes in the Grade III Sixty Sails Handicap at Hawthorne in April, and she has gone on to take the Grade I Ogden Phipps Handicap and most recently the Grade I Beldame over Ladies' Classic entrant Unrivaled Belle.
"I think part of it is just her kind of coming into her own and physically filling out and putting it all together," Pletcher said of Life At Ten. "I think the single biggest reason is we spent too much time running her on synthetic tracks and she has improved on the dirt. She's training as well now as she has at any point."
The 5-year-old Acoma was supposed to be heading to the breeding shed a couple weeks ago. But after winning the Grade I Juddmonte Spinster at Keeneland on Oct. 10 — her first top-level score — owners Helen Alexander and Helen Groves decided to extend the daughter of Empire Maker's career by one more race. She is 2-for-2 lifetime over the Churchill surface.
"She's very capable on the dirt and very comfortable here," trainer David Carroll said. "Obviously we have a tall task, but it's a wide-open field."