Thursday, July 14, 2011
Riding Blind Luck
I ride my big horse of this season, Blind Luck, in the Delaware Handicap on Saturday. It's funny to call her the "big" horse because she really doesn't look like an imposing runner -- but what she lacks in stature she makes up for in heart.
I've ridden Blind Luck in her past three starts. She began her 2011 campaign with a few runner-up finishes that weren't quite up to the standards of her previous season, and they were starting to make some changes so we were privileged enough to end up on her. Her trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, really didn't give me specific directions when he asked me to ride her other than not to hit her right-handed because she would duck away from the stick. I've never had a problem with her.
In our first start together, the Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn, she wasn't all the way up to form like she has been for the past couple of races. We ran second to Havre de Grace, who we'll meet again this weeekend. They've faced each other five times already, and they each have two victories (in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, we ran second to Unrivaled Belle while Havre de Grace finished third).
My filly is real straightforward; there aren't many difficult things about her. Nothing bothers her and there's nothing flashy about her, but she has her own distinct look. She runs with her tail carried a little different than most horses and she has her own personality. She's a pretty neat little horse. She's done everything. She ships, she doesn't get nervous, she's a consummate professional. She goes out there ready to run and like I said, she's not much to look at -- she's probably only a little over fifteen hands, maybe fifteen-three, maybe 980 pounds or something like that -- but on a heart standpoint and based on what she's accomplished, she's a classic racehorse.
In the race we won at Churchill Downs this May, the La Troienne Stakes, I thought she had no chance after she fell leaving the gate. She stumbled and when she did that she pulled off a shoe, so she actually ran the whole race on three shoes and overcame that and the start to win. It was quite impressive and that day in the final strides I realized how hard she tries. When you turn for home, she just gives you her all.
Her last win in the Vanity Handicap at Hollywood last month was also impressive because she's a closer and she won that race with no pace to run into. The good thing about when they slow it down that much is that, instead of making up 10 or 15 lengths turning for home, I only have to make up four or five. Of course, they're going to come home quicker because they're not as tired, but I am too. When I moved her out turning for home she just overhauled them, and that was impressive because those horses were fresher than they would have been with a quicker pace. Numbers-wise she's not going to have a very good speed figure, but that race was no less an accomplishment than what she did at Churchill in May.
Of course Havre de Grace is a good filly, a really good filly. In fact, we were trying to get them to run Blind Luck in the Hollywood Gold Cup because the other filly is just as difficult to try and outrun as the boys here would be. But the way Hollendorfer's training schedule is mapped out, he wanted to go to Delaware and focus all the attention upon making sure she's still fresh enough and on the muscle for the Breeders' Cup later this fall, and of course it's building up into a nice little rivalry between the two of them as well.
Rivalries with these kind of horses and these kind of races are exactly what the sport needs. I wish that kind of thing could have developed between Blame and Zenyatta, because those two horses racing eye-to-eye down the stretch last year in the Breeders' Cup Classic was phenomenal. Of course, Blame went off to stud to start his second career and Zenyatta was retired after that race, but it would have been cool if they could have showed up in Dubai for the World Cup or something like that. Blame always trained well on a synthetic track and I always thought he worked awesome over that kind of surface any time I worked him, and we know what Zenyatta did on synthetics, so that would have been a phenomenal horse race.
Two horses facing off against each other on a repeated basis gives racing fans something to gravitate towards, and the horses that stick around long enough to actually get a fan base and still compete at the highest levels are rare these days. So once you do come across two that are both talented and running in the same conditions and accomplishing a lot at this level, you consider yourself lucky to be involved and you recognize that it's pretty good for the sport.
Other than the upcoming trip to Delaware, I'll be mostly riding in California as we get the meet underway at Del Mar. Of course, we'd love to get a piece of the action in a few of the Saratoga stakes like the Travers and the Whitney, so we'll keep our eyes and ears open for anyone who might need our services up there. I'll check in with all of you mid-August or see you at the races!