Blind Luck: failed to sell for $10,000 at the two-year-olds in training salesPICTURE: Getty Images
Blind Luck: flying the flag for Pollard's Vision
3 ch f Pollard's Vision - Lucky One (Best Of Luck)
THE best two-year-old colt of 2009 in North America, Lookin At Lucky, was narrowly beaten at the Breeders' Cup, but came out again to surely clinch his title with a decisive victory in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity in late December.
Leadership of the juvenile filly division may well have been settled in similar fashion, as Blind Luck, only third as favourite in the race which normally determines the identity of the champion, also returned in triumph at Hollywood with a stunning display in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes which must have persuaded some voters to switch their allegiance from the Santa Anita winner, She Be Wild.
We must wait until the end of January for the announcement of the Eclipse Award winners, but if these two are confirmed as the champions, their similar paths to glory will seem no less remarkable than their contrasting fortunes in the marketplace.
Lookin At Lucky was bought in at $35,000 as a yearling, but went on to command a $475,000 price-tag when re-offered as a two-year-old in the following spring. Blind Luck, sold in the bargain basement for only $11,000 as a yearling, was even less impressive when she returned to the ring at two;the bidding stopped at $10,000, and she failed to reach her reserve.
In view of the market's lack of interest, it was hardly surprising that Blind Luck made her debut in claiming company at Calder, but after she had won thatrace by more than 13 lengths perceptions inevitably changed. She was soon sold in a private deal that took her to Jerry Hollendorfer's barn in California, and victory in a Del Mar starter allowance event brought a swift initial return on the investment.
Promotion to Grade 1 company in the Debutante Stakes at the same track in early September perhaps came a shade too soon, as, even with a concession of 6lb from Mi Sueno to help her, she went under by a length.
But that first defeat was all about inexperience rather than an indication of her limitations, and a month later she was a Grade 1 winner, taking the Oak Leaf Stakes at Santa Anita impressively by two and a half lengths.
On the strength of that performance Blind Luck was made favourite for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, over the same track and distance, but she was shuffled back when meeting interference on the first turn, and though she fought her way into contention in the straight, the effort took its toll and she wound up third, beaten three-quarters of a length and a head, by She Be Wild and Beautician.
While She Be Wild rested on her laurels as a winner four times out of five, both Beautician and Blind Luck turned out for the Hollywood Starlet, intent on a last-ditch crack at the two-year-old filly title. One flopped badly, while the other scored in devastating style.
The punters preferred Beautician, but she was visibly struggling at the turn for home, and Garrett Gomez did not persevere with her, allowing her to come home in her own time, last of the seven.
Blind Luck, by contrast, was always travelling sweetly for Rafael Bejarano, and when asked to quicken she fairly flew, swiftly establishing a clear lead. At the wire she had seven lengths to spare over runner-up Miss Heather Lee.
Blind Luck represents the first crop of her sire Pollard's Vision, a horse who never quite reached the top as a runner, but who had a legitimate excuse for any apparent shortcomings, being blind in his right eye – a decided disadvantage in a country where all the tracks were left-handed. (He was named in reference to Seabiscuit's regular rider, the one-eyed Red Pollard.)
Pollard's Vision broke his maiden at Saratoga by 12 and a half lengths, equalling the 7f track record, but that turned out to be his only win as a juvenile, and it was his consistent form at three that established his reputation as a high-class performer.
He seemed to run in every race with ‘Derby' in its title, winning the Illinois (Gr2) and Lone Star (Gr3) versions, taking second place in those of Pennsylvania (Gr2), Ohio (Gr2) and West Virginia (Gr3), and third in the Louisiana (Gr2) counterpart.
In the big one, at Churchill Downs, racing wide in an 18-horse field was always going to militate against his chances and, sure enough, he was a spent force a long way from home.
Though never successful at Grade 1 level, Pollard's Vision did finish second in the Pimlico Special and third in the Suburban Handicap as a four-year-old, and he bowed out of racing as the highest earner among the many stakes-winners by his sire Carson City with a bankroll over over $1.2 million.
As a well-made but far from imposing specimen who had failed to achieve real distinction in the best company, Pollard's Vision was nobody's idea of a prospective leading sire when he retired to stud in 2006 at a fee of $10,000.
Even so, his pedigree background gave him some licence to succeed, and he quickly gathered a three-figure book, albeit with few mares of real qualityamong the number; with one star and three lesser stakes-winners from their products already, he has made a decidedly propitious start.
The fourth dam of Pollard's Vision is Chris Evert, the champion three-year-old filly of 1974, and she also features on the distaff side of Blind Luck's pedigree. She is the granddam of Chief's Crown, the maternal grandsire of Best of Luck, the sire of Blind Luck's dam, Lucky One.
Best of Luck was a decent racehorse, successful in the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes, but he has made little impression as a sire, with only four stakes-winners to his name. Lucky One was no great shakes as a runner, winning only once from 15 efforts, but she did have a fast half-brother in the Glitterman gelding Ethan Man, a Grade 3 winner in a brief career.
This is a female line that has thrown up the odd good performer over the years, generally with the input of a significant sire as the catalyst.
Blind Luck's sixth damwas Suntop, the champion three-year-old filly in Ireland in 1943, when she won both the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks, but none of the stallions used on her female descendants that connect with Lucky One was of much account as a sire. Bright News, Talgo, Fair Ruler, Imp Society and Best of Luck were all minor achievers at best in the stud ranks.
The fact that a runner of genuine quality has emerged in the family in spite of the intervening moderate sires might be construed as an indication that Pollard's Vision has a lot going for him. He will surely be favoured with some higher-quality mares in the immediate future.
Sire: Pollard's Vision
Bred by Charles A. Smith in Kentucky. $70,000 Keeneland April 2-y-o. Won 6 (7f-1m1f) of23 races, viz. 1 out of 6 at 2 years, 4 (inc. Illinois Derby-Gr2, Leonard Richards S.-Gr3, Lone Star Derby-Gr3) out of 11 at 3 years, 1 (National Jockey Club H.-Gr3) out of 6 at 4 years. Also placed in 7 other Graded races, 2 in Gr1. RPR: 111 at 3 and 4 years. Earned $1,430,311.
Smallish (15.3hh), neat individual.
High-class, game and consistent performer, compromised by blindness in right eye.
Well bred. The leading earner by a good sire who has got 98 stakes-winners. Half-brother to a winner. Dam unraced sister to tough Bowman's Band (Gr2 winner, 5 times Gr1-placed). Granddam stakes-winner, twice Gr1-placed, half-sister to dams of Gr1 winners Sightseek, Tates Creek and Etoile Montante.
Next dam unraced half-sister to dam of Chief's Crown, out of champion 3-y-o filly. Excellent family.
Stands at Wintergreen Stallion Station, Midway, Kentucky, at a (2010) fee of $10,000. Sire of 2 crops of racing age, inc.notable winner: Blind Luck (Oak Leaf S.-Gr1, Hollywood Starlet S.-Gr1).
Dam: Lucky One
Bred by Justice Farm & Greg and Steve Justice in Kentucky. $77,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling. Won 1 of 15 races, viz. 0 out of 3 at 2 years, 1 out of 10 at 3 years, 0 out of 1 at 4 years. Earned $26,916.
Indifferent performer in modestcompany.
By a Gr2 winner who has made little impact at stud. Half-sister to speedy Gr3-winning gelding Ethan Man (by Glitterman) and to a winner in Puerto Rico. Dam (by poor sire) unplaced in 5 starts, half-sister to Gr2 winner Chas Conerly and Gr3-placed winner Gainzer.
Granddam won 7 races, half-sister to 2 stakes-placed winners, inc. dam of Gr1 winner Burn's Return.
Same family as champion 2-y-o Honest Pleasure and multiple Gr1 winner For theMoment, tracing to Irish Oaks winner Suntop.
To stud at 4 years and dam of: Blind Luck (2007 f by Pollard's Vision; dual Gr1 winner), unnamed (2008 c by Orientate; $40,000 Keeneland September yearling).
Clearly among the best of her crop, on the upgrade, and likely to prove a legitimate candidate for the Kentucky Oaks.