Mark DeDomenico, John Carver, Peter Abruzzo and Jerry Hollendorfer's Blind Luck outgamed Evening Jewel in a deep stretch duel to win the 136th running of the $584,300 Kentucky Oaks for 3-year-old fillies by a nose on Friday afternoon at Churchill Downs before a record Kentucky Oaks Day crowd of 116,046.
The previous attendance mark for Oaks Day was 111,243 established in 2005.
Ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Blind Luck gave trainer Hollendorfer his third Kentucky Oaks victory. His previous wins came in 1991 with Lite Light and 1996 with Pike Place Dancer. It was Bejarano's first Kentucky Oaks score.
Tidal Pool, ridden by Calvin Borel, led the field of 14 through early fractions of :23.95 and :48.15 with Age of Humor and Ailalea in closest pursuit and Evening Jewel in fourth under Kent Desormeaux.
At that juncture, Blind Luck was at the tail of the field. Approaching the end of the backstretch, Bejarano moved Blind Luck outside of horses for clear sailing and on the far turn began picking off horses and swung for home seven-wide.
Entering the stretch, Tidal Pool was in command but Evening Jewel had dead aim and took over at the eighth pole only to be confronted by Blind Luck. Those two raced to the wire as team with Blind Luck getting the best of the photo for the second time this year having beaten Evening Jewel by a similar margin in the Las Virgenes (GI) in February at Santa Anita.
Blind Luck, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Pollard's Vision out of the Best of Luck mare Lucky One, ran the 1 1/8 miles on a "fast" main track in 1:50.70.
The victory, the fourth Grade I triumph for Blind Luck, was worth $329,662 and increased her earnings to $1,398,712. In addition to the Las Virgenes, Blind Luck's other Grade I victories came in the Oak Leaf last fall and the Hollywood Starlet in December.
Blind Luck, sent off as the 6-5 favorite, returned $4.60, $3.60 and $2.80. Evening Jewel paid $9.40 and $7.20 with Tidal Pool returning $5 to show. Completing the field in order were Beautician, Ailalea, Amen Hallelujah, Crisp, Quiet Temper, It's Tea Time, Joanie's Catch, Champagne d'Oro, Age of Humor, Jody Slew and Bella Diamante.
KENTUCKY OAKS QUOTES
RAFAEL BEJARANO (jockey, Blind Luck, winner): "I knew she was going to kick in for me and show me that run, she always does. She tries so hard. The stretch here is very long but she kept trying hard until the end and never stopped trying. She's amazing."
JERRY HOLLENDORFER (trainer, Blind Luck, winner): "It was tense enough for a few minutes waiting, but I thought we got it on the head-bob and we were right. A great ride by Rafael got her there. When I bought her, I paid way more than the $40,000 claiming price, so we always anticipated she would be a stakes horse. She's delivered."
KENT DESORMEAUX (jockey, Evening Jewel, second) - "That stings. This race has eluded me; I really wanted to win it. And I knew turning for home I was a winner. And I got beat. Really stings."
JIM CASSIDY (trainer, Evening Jewel, second) - "Oh, man, that was hard. We had the same result in the Los Virgenes at Santa Anita (Feb. 13 in which she lost to Blind Luck by a nose) and I though we had won that one, too. Everyone around us today thought she had won; we did, too. I knew we did. She's a game, game filly. When she saw that other one (Blind Luck) she dug in and came back at her again. Toughest beat of my career - no question. I've been beaten some dirty noses in Grade Is at other tracks, but given the context here - Kentucky Oaks, all that money, huge crowd, this was the toughest one of all."
CALVIN BOREL (jockey, Tidal Pool, third): "She ran a good race. She just got outrun, more than anything. When I called on her she went about her business and just got outrun."
D. WAYNE LUKAS (trainer, Tidal Pool, third): "Good. We ran a hell of a race. We just weren't good enough. Ran a good one."
ALEX SOLIS (jockey, Beautician, fourth): "I had a really good trip until I got to the quarter pole. At the quarter pole I got bounced around and it kind of cost me third place. It got really tight and I went in between two horses and got bounced around. She really ran great."
KEN McPEEK (trainer, Beautician, fourth): "We were pleased with her race. Alex (Solis) said he had a little bit of trouble at the quarter pole or he thought he would have been third. She's a good filly and Blind Luck is a little bit better."
JOHN VELAZQUEZ (jockey, Ailalea, fifth): "She ran a good one. We knew we had to use her away from there to get some position on that first turn and she got a little rank. But once she hit the backside, she settled fine. She's one-paced. She doesn't have that burst. But she kept trying. A couple of them went by her and she kept on. She didn't give it up. It was a good effort on her part."
TODD PLETCHER (trainer, Ailalea, fifth): "We asked her to run early to find a spot and she got a little rank on us. But she settled OK and got to running. She finished up all right and it was a good race for her. Don't know what we'll do with her next. We'll have to consider that one."
JULIEN LEPAROUX (jockey, Amen Hallelujah, sixth) - "She got a very good trip, actually. She was relaxed, she just didn't fire. She was off the pace, which is what we wanted, she relaxed, but in the last stages, she didn't fire."
RICK DUTROW (trainer, Amen Hallelujah, sixth) - "The jock said she got a good trip. He said when it came to run, she didn't have what she needed."
JOEL ROSARIO (jockey, Crisp, seventh): "She made a big move for me and I thought she was in good shape. But she got tired. She just got tired. She ran out of gas."
JOHN SADLER (trainer, Crisp, seventh): "Too wide. Way too wide. She lost too much ground to be competitive. When you see the chart of the race, it's going to say she was six wide, five wide, six wide. You can't win races like that."
ROBBY ALBARADO (jockey, Swift Temper, eighth): "She didn't break that well. She was kind of flat-footed and never picked it up from there."
DALE ROMANS (trainer, Swift Temper, eighth): "She didn't look herself at all. She was just flat."
ALAN GARCIA (jockley, It's Tea Time, ninth): "I had no time to get out and make my filly run. My filly never responded the way I wanted. She was stuck inside the whole way and I didn't get the chance to move outside."
RUSTY ARNOLD (trainer, It's Tea Time, ninth): "It's tough for me to see much on the first turn but I know she was on the rail the whole way. It didn't seem to be a horrible trip, though. I was asking a lot; I knew we were asking a lot (from her). I'll kind of back up now and regroup and go a more conservative route. We kind of threw ourselves into this by the way she was going. She had training really good."
PACO LOPEZ (jockey, Joanie's Catch, 10th) -"The post position was a little problem, but no excuse."
ERIC GUILLOT (trainer, Champagne d'Oro, 11th): "I know what happened. She fell out of the gate and got shuffled back."
MARTIN GARCIA (jockey, Champagne d'Oro, 11th): "She didn't break really good and then I just sat. When she didn't break good I just sat because I didn't have anywhere to go. So that's why I just sat and wait, wait, wait. When I did ask her she didn't show anything. She was just even."
RAJIV MARAGH (jockey, Age of Humor, 12th): "She was sitting really good. I was sitting in third and following the eight (Tidal Pool) all the way and it felt like she was giving me a good run. But when the real running started, she just faded away."
MIGUEL MENA (jockey, Jody Slew, 13th): "It was a good trip, I just didn't have enough horse for the ending."
MIKE SMITH (jockey, Bella Diamante, 14th): "I broke last and pretty much stayed back there. I just never could make up any ground."
ALLEN MILLIGAN JR. (trainer, Bella Diamante, 14th): "I thought she gave us a little run around the turn and just flattened out. We'll just take her back to Lone Star and I just want to make sure she comes back OK. She looks good right now (at the barn about a half-hour after the race)."