Kentucky Derby

Blind Luck charges from last to win Oaks

LOUISVILLE — Before she ever had a saddle on her back and a bit in her mouth, Blind Luck always knew how to put her connections' hearts squarely in their throats.

As a foal on breeder Dr. William Baker's Fairlawn Farm, Blind Luck ran through a fence as Baker's Great Pyrenees dog gave chase.

"Just below her knee on her right side, you can see the scar," Baker said.

In Friday's Grade I Kentucky Oaks, Blind Luck found herself involved in another dramatic pursuit. And once again, the chestnut filly came out on top.

Blind Luck's flair for the dramatic was on full display during the 136th running of the $584,300 Oaks as she rallied from last in the 14-horse field to edge Evening Jewel by a nose at the wire in front of a record crowd of 116,046.

Blind Luck's trademark closing kick had powered her to three Grade I victories, but even her confident connections couldn't help but feel some stress when they saw the filly more than 11 lengths behind pacesetter Tidal Pool as the leader reached the half-mile mark in :48.15.

Then Blind Luck mounted a furious rally down the middle of the track and hit the wire almost simultaneously with Evening Jewel, and her connection's hearts were pounding.

"This horse does this over and over. She gives us heart failure coming down the lane," said Mark DeDomenico, who co-owns Blind Luck with trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, John Carver and Peter Abruzzo. "She has such a great closing kick. I'm always saying to (jockey) Rafael Bejarano, 'Please, please don't make it that close' ... and sure enough, next time he makes it that close. She's such a great filly."

Under artful handling from Bejarano, Blind Luck began picking off runners on the outside path approaching the final turn but, by that point, Evening Jewel had taken dead aim at eventual third-place finisher Tidal Pool and looked primed to draw off.

Bejarano then made the bold decision to swing out six-wide entering the stretch.

Evening Jewel overtook Tidal Pool in midstretch, but Blind Luck wore her down and finished just ahead in 1:50.70 for the 11⁄8 miles.

"It was a really tight race, but I knew my filly; right at the wire, she put her head down," said Bejarano, who earned his first Oaks win. "I was not for sure 100 percent, but I was 99 percent sure I had won.

"She never stopped trying. She's just amazing."

Fortunately for her owners, there weren't many who thought highly of Blind Luck as a youngster.

Baker, who bred and raised the filly, sold Blind Luck for a mere $11,000 at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton July yearling auction to Juvenal Diaz after few others expressed interest.

Diaz then tried to resell the filly at the 2009 OBS 2-year-olds-in-training sale, but her presale workout failed to impress buyers, and he bought her back for $10,000.

"When we put her in the sale, we couldn't really get anyone (interested in) her, and Juvenal couldn't get her sold for $11,000," Baker said of the first Grade I winner he has bred after more than 40 years in the industry. "And there was nothing wrong with her."

Her career debut proved just that. Blind Luck won a 41/2-furlong race over the main track at Calder Race Course by an eye-opening 131/4 lengths.

That was enough to get the attention of Hollendorfer and company, who bought her privately and took her to California.

"Mark wanted the whole horse, but I wanted a part of her," said a laughing Hollendorfer, who won the Oaks for a third time (he also won with Lite Light in 1991 and Pike Place Dancer in 1996). "When I bought her, I paid way more than the $40,000 claiming price. She's delivered."

Since coming into Hollendorfer's barn, Blind Luck has won the Grade I Oak Leaf, Hollywood Starlet and Las Virgenes Stakes over synthetic tracks in addition to her 21/2-length victory in the Grade II Fantasy Stakes at Oaklawn Park on April 2.

It was trainer Jim Cassidy's second gut-wrenching loss to Blind Luck, who also beat Evening Jewel by a nose in the Las Virgenes on Feb. 13.

"Toughest beat of my career, no question," Cassidy said. "Evening Jewel is a game, game filly. Everyone around us thought she had won. I know we did."

But for Blind Luck, it was just business as usual.

"We're going to take a couple days to enjoy this, and we'll try to make a little plan for the next part of the year," Hollendorfer said.