Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- There's plenty of action on Friday, what with six Breeders' Cup races. There will be cameras, what with ESPN2 televising four hours, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern time. And, for the first time in Breeders' Cup history, there will be lights, what with Churchill Downs having installed permanent fixtures first used in June. The Breeders' Cup is being run for the 27th time, and though it was only miles from Hollywood, Calif., the previous two years, only this year can one truly say, lights, camera, action!
No one seems more camera-ready for evening's featured $2 million Ladies' Classic than Blind Luck, who has prevailed in four of the five photo finishes in which she has been involved this year, including the Kentucky Oaks over this track on April 30. Though based in California, she is making her sixth cross-country trip in an ambitious 2010 campaign that has seen her win 5 of 8 starts, including three Grade 1 events, to put her atop the nation's 3-year-old filly division.
A slightly built filly, Blind Luck trains aggressively every morning, like a flyweight fighter itching to dole out some punches.
"She's never changed since the first day I saw her, and that's a good thing," said trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who bought Blind Luck privately last year and is her co-owner. "She's fun to be around, with her personality. She stays happy all the time."
For all she has accomplished, though, Blind Luck on Friday night will be facing older rivals for the first time, most notably Life At Ten, who has won 5 of 6 starts this year and would be the top-ranked older mare in the country if not for the giant shadow cast by Zenyatta. The 11-horse Ladies' Classic field also includes Unrivaled Belle, who won the La Troienne Stakes here earlier this year; Malibu Prayer, who has won 2 of her last 3 starts and also is a winner of her lone start at Churchill Downs; and Havre de Grace, a 3-year-old filly who lost two narrow decisions to Blind Luck in July and August before holding her off in the Cotillion on Oct. 2.
"It's a really good-quality field, but that's the way it's supposed to be for a Breeders' Cup race," Hollendorfer said.
Hollendorfer is emboldened by knowing that the Kentucky Oaks was run at the exact same track, and the exact same distance -- 1 1/8 miles -- as the Ladies' Classic.
"As trainers you're always looking for positive things," he said, "and it is a positive that she has handled the track before."
Blind Luck drew post 10, just inside of Havre de Grace.
"She's good, I think better than ever before," said Tony Dutrow, who trains Havre de Grace. "She has run faster every race than her preceding one, and I've seen in her, for the first time, that she's aggressive coming into a race. I think she knows what to do now. She has experience. She's going into this race unlike any other.
"She's run well on several different surfaces. She's never run at Churchill Downs. Outside of that one factor, I have every reason to believe that Havre de Grace has never been this good."
Life At Ten's lone blemish this year came when she futilely tried to attack Rachel Alexandra from the start of the Personal Ensign. She tired to finish third, behind Rachel Alexandra, who never raced again, and Persistently, who rallied for the win. Life At Ten returned to win the Beldame on Oct. 2, beating Ladies' Classic rivals Unrivaled Belle and Persistently.
"One thing we did in the Beldame was get her back off the pace," said Life At Ten's trainer, Todd Pletcher. "She had the one hole, and maybe it would have been best to send her, but we wanted to reverse the tactics of the previous race, which didn't go so well."
If Life At Ten and Blind Luck are alongside one another in the stretch run, Blind Luck better be outside of Life At Ten, or you might not see Blind Luck next to the strong, powerful older mare.
"She's not as big as Zenyatta, but she's big," Pletcher said.
Pletcher also sends out Malibu Prayer, who beat Unrivaled Belle in the Ruffian and has been freshened since a second-place finish in the Molly Pitcher 68 days ago.
First post time Friday is 2 p.m. Eastern time. The Ladies' Classic, scheduled for 7:30 p.m., is the 10th and final race on the card, and last of six Breeders' Cup races. Eight more Breeders' Cup races, including the Classic with Zenyatta, are scheduled Saturday. The Ladies' Classic is the final leg of pick four and pick six wagers that each have guaranteed pools of $750,000.