Blind Luck kicks off big weekend in El Encino


Blind Luck kicks off big weekend in El Encino

Five-time Grade 1 star BLIND LUCK (Pollard's Vision) is a virtual lock to be named champion three-year-old filly at the Eclipse Awards banquet on Monday night, but she aims to get the party started a little earlier on this Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend when reappearing in Sunday's $150,000 El Encino S. (G2) at Santa Anita. The Jerry Hollendorfer trainee, who was last seen finishing second in the November 5 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (G1), will meet seven rivals in the 1 1/16-mile affair.

Blind Luck was a handy winner of the Oak Leaf S. (G1) and Hollywood Starlet S. (G1) as a juvenile, but as a one-dimensional closer, her reliance on her devastating late kick caused her to cut things awfully close a few times at three. Except for a 2 1/2-length conquest in the Fantasy S. (G2), Blind Luck had to rally furiously to get up by narrow margins in the Las Virgenes S. (G1), Kentucky Oaks (G1), Delaware Oaks (G2) and Alabama S. (G1). Other times, she had simply too much to ground to make up, and she was forced to settle for runner-up honors in the Ladies' Classic, Cotillion S. (G2) and Hollywood Oaks (G2), and third in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1).

Although Blind Luck has been training sharply in advance of her four-year-old bow, she will once again be hostage to the pace scenario on Sunday. The 123-pound co-highweight will break from post 2 before dropping back early beneath regular rider Joel Rosario.

With the El Encino being the middle leg of the series culminating in the February 13 La Canada S. (G2), it stands to reason that several entrants are coming out of the opening leg, the December 26 La Brea S. (G1) at seven furlongs. The stakes record-setting winner, Switch (Quiet American), has opted to remain at one turn for the January 30 Santa Monica H. (G1), but four La Brea runners are stretching back out to two turns here -- runner-up MALIBU PIER (Malibu Moon), fourth ALWAYS A PRINCESS (Leroidesanimaux [Brz]), fifth IT TIZ (Tiznow) and sixth CHAMPAGNE D'ORO (Medaglia d'Oro).

Champagne d'Oro, the only other Grade 1 victress in the field, promises to flash speed from the rail. The Eric Guillot filly excelled in one-turn events last summer, wiring the Acorn S. (G1) and forcing a hot pace in the Test S. (G1) en route to a 4 1/2-length triumph, but she has failed to crack the trifecta in her past three. Champagne d'Oro ran fairly evenly in fourth in the Thoroughbred Club of America S. (G2) at Keeneland, where she perhaps reiterated her lack of enthusiasm for synthetic surfaces. Yet she didn't do much better back on the dirt when fading to fourth in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) and a non-threatening sixth in the La Brea.

After those relatively disappointing efforts sprinting, Champagne d'Oro reverts to routing for the first time since her throw-out 11th in the Kentucky Oaks. Prior to that, the bay nearly pulled off a front-running upset of the Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at this same 1 1/16-mile trip. Joe Talamo picks up the mount.

The Bob Baffert-trained Always a Princess, who also figures to be a pace factor, has run well in all three starts at the El Encino distance. Second to Blind Luck in the 2009 Oak Leaf, she was a close fifth in that year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and earned her first stakes win in the Indiana Oaks (G2). Always a Princess then cut back to one turn, finishing third in the Chilukki S. (G2) and a tiring fourth in the La Brea, but is eligible to put forth an improved effort here. Rafael Bejarano will be back aboard the chestnut, who ranks as the other 123-pound co-highweight along with Blind Luck.

Malibu Pier got off to a troubled start in the La Brea, only her fifth career outing, yet showed professionalism to close boldly for the runner-up spot. The Carla Gaines trainee has already won twice over a route of ground, having landed allowances over the Del Mar turf and the Hollywood Park Cushion Track, and keeps Garrett Gomez in the saddle. Generally a stalking type, Malibu Pier is likely to get the jump on Blind Luck.

It Tiz, the winner of the grassy Le Cle S. last July, has been found wanting at the graded level in the past. On the other hand, a change of tactics -- putting her on the lead -- two starts back resulted in a clear second in the Life Is Sweet S. to the up-and-coming Washington Bridge (Yankee Gentleman).

FASHION TREND (Petionville), a full sister to multiple Grade 1 queen and $2 million-earner Island Fashion, steps up in class off a resounding 5 1/4-length score in the September 24 Palomares S. at Fairplex. The gray's prior stakes attempts yielded mixed results, a near-miss second to Antares World (Decarchy) in the California Oaks and a too-bad-to-be-true eighth in the Torrey Pines S. in her only unplaced effort.

Taking an even bigger hike are last-out maiden winner LIFE WELL LIVED (Tiznow), a full sister to 2009 Dubai World Cup (UAE-G1) romper Well Armed, and OUR GEORGIA (Pulpit), who makes her dirt, American and graded debut for Neil Drysdale.