No matter the track, the coast, or any other outside factors, Jerry Hollendorfer lives his own version of Groundhog Day with his champion filly Blind Luck.
"I was watching her cooling out this morning and saying to my assistant, we just have never seen a horse that just acts the same and does the same every single day and seems to be happy all the time," the Hall of Fame trainer said during a national teleconference Tuesday. "That's the special place that she has for us. She just keeps doing it, and we keep loving her for doing it."
The "it" is Blind Luck's consistent display of grit and talent and a resiliency that belies her small stature.
"It" has already earned her one Eclipse Award trophy and six Grade I wins. It has also helped make her — and her leading rival no less — among the highest-regarded horses in the nation.
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With champions Blame, Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta all retiring to the breeding shed for the 2011 season, Thoroughbred racing found itself in need of something fans could wrap their hearts around for the foreseeable future.
Turns out, the industry already had a potential heroine in Blind Luck, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2010 who could become the third consecutive female runner to take Horse of the Year honors by this season's end.
The 4-year-old daughter of Pollard's Vision is set to face six others in Saturday's Grade I Lady's Secret Stakes at Santa Anita Park in what will be her seventh start this year and latest cross-country venture in a career that has seen her start at nine tracks.
She doesn't have the potential for perfection Zenyatta had or the wins over males Rachel Alexandra racked up. But in Blind Luck, racing has a blue-collar spark plug that can always be counted on to run hard, run well, and get pulses racing with her dramatic late bursts.
In 21 career starts, Blind Luck has won 12 times and never been worse than third. Included in those outings has been her ongoing rivalry with fellow Grade I-winning distaffer Havre de Grace — whom Blind Luck has faced six times and finished ahead of in four of those meetings.
"I would say the good ones find a way to get the job done, and she's done that on every adventure we've sent her on," said Hollendorfer, who is a part owner of Blind Luck with Mark DeDomenico, John Carver and Peter Abruzzo. "We think she's special, and some other people do, too. We don't want to brag about her too much, but she's been very consistent."
Following a nine-race 3-year-old campaign that culminated with a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, it took Blind Luck time to regain her form as she began 2011 with three straight runner-up finishes.
One of those defeats was a 31/4-length loss to Havre de Grace in the Grade III Azeri at Oaklawn in March, the only time the two fillies have been separated by more than a length at the wire. As Blind Luck got cranked up, she forced others to raise their games.
After posting wins in the Grade II La Troienne and Grade I Vanity, Blind Luck faced Havre de Grace again in the Grade II Delaware Handicap on July 16 with Blind Luck prevailing by a nose following a classic stride-for-stride duel in the stretch.
The fact that Havre de Grace carried 2 more pounds than Blind Luck in Delaware was pointed out by her trainer, Larry Jones, as contributing to such a narrow defeat. Still, knowing it would take something grand to beat Blind Luck in the race for divisional leadership, Jones and owner Rick Porter sent Havre de Grace to tackle males in the Grade I Woodward Stakes on Sept. 3, where she won by 11/4 lengths.
"I could never criticize anybody for squawking. I do plenty of squawking myself when things don't go my way," Hollendorfer said of Jones' complaints about the 2 pounds.
"I'm kind of getting over the Blind Luck problem that happened this summer, especially with (Havre de Grace's) dominating performance there in the Woodward," Jones added. "But what a joy it would be to be set in at a mile and a quarter against her and all the boys at equal weight, and let the best horse win."
Racing fans might have to wait until 2012 to see Blind Luck and Havre de Grace meet again, however. Havre de Grace is starting in Saturday's Grade I Beldame at Belmont and — pending a win there — probably will face males again in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5.
Even though Blind Luck owns the edge in their overall meetings, and Horse of the Year implications could be on the line, Hollendorfer is steadfast in keeping his filly against her own gender in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic on Nov. 4.
"That's the race that we've been pointing to for the last two years, so I want to keep on that course," Hollendorfer said. "If something was to persuade me to change my mind about one race or another, then I would change my mind but, right now, I'm focused in on the Ladies' Classic."