Jerry Hollendorfer has won nearly 6,000 races. He has dominated racing in Northern California for decades, winning 37 consecutive training titles at Bay Meadows and 32 straight at Golden Gate Fields. Only four trainers in history have won more races than Hollendorfer.
Hollendorfer has made it in the game the hard way. Nothing was ever handed to him. He won all those claiming races because he worked at it. And whenever he got a top stakes horse in his barn, he won major races. All he has ever needed was a chance.
When Blind Luck broke her maiden at Calder on June 21, 2009, she was eligible to be claimed for $40,000. She won that day by 13 1/4 lengths and went unclaimed.
The 2-year-old filly was still for sale, but the price, according to several industry sources, had gone up tenfold. Blind Luck's owner was Juvenal Diaz, a former jockey who also happened to be good friends with Hollendorfer. This was an opportunity.
Hollendorfer liked what he had seen from Blind Luck. He put together a group and made the winning bid. The price has never been revealed, but $400,000 seems realistic.
"[Diaz] told me she was going to be a good filly," Hollendorfer said. "He's a very astute horsemen and he knows."
He didn't know that Blind Luck would be the nation's best 3-year-old filly, that she would win Grade I stakes, including the Kentucky Oaks and Alabama Stakes. He did not know she would also win at Del Mar, Santa Anita, Hollywood Park, Oaklawn Park, Churchill Downs, Delaware Park and Saratoga.
"I'll tell you one thing he did tell me," said Hollendorfer, who is one of four owners. "When I bought her, he told me I was only paying half what she was worth. He knew that she had a chance to be a good filly. He's a seller. He sells his horses and he hopes they turn out to be good because then people buy more horses from him."
Certainly, Diaz was right, even more right than he knew. Blind Luck has earned nearly $1.9 million. Tomorrow, she will try to get beyond $2 million in the $750,000 Fitz Dixon Cotillion, the culmination of the greatest month of racing in the history of the track that was born as Keystone and was Philadelphia Park until being renamed Parx Racing a month ago.
Horse racing is filled with mystery. One unsolved mystery is why Hollendorfer is not in racing's Hall of Fame.
"It's not up to me to go around waving my flag." Hollendorfer said. "I've been a little disappointed that I didn't make it in because I think I've done quite a bit. I don't dwell on it, ever."
Perhaps his impeccable work with Blind Luck can get him there. Three of her major stakes wins came by a nose. Another was by a neck. That does not happen by accident.
"I guess if we win enough races, they'll have to put us in there," Hollendorfer said.
Yes, they will.
Blind Luck's next start is scheduled to be the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 5. She has held her form from the time of her first start. In 13 starts, she has nine wins, two seconds and two thirds. Her last 11 starts have been in Grade I or Grade II stakes. This is her fifth trip east from her Southern California base this year.
"I think she likes going on the plane," Hollendorfer said. "Some horses get real upset and real nervous when they travel . . . she likes it and she enjoys it."
And she likes to run. Blind Luck will have to run hard to beat Havre de Grace, trained locally by Tony Dutrow. Blind Luck beat Havre de Grace by a nose in the Delaware Oaks and a neck in the Alabama. So it won't be easy for Blind Luck, which has not been an issue anyway. She just shows up where Hollendorfer enters her, takes a little bit of time to get rolling in her races and then comes with a relentless run to the finish line.
Tomorrow, at Parx Racing, 10th race
Purse $750,000 (Grade 2). One-and-1/16 miles. Three-year-olds. Fillies. All carry 114 pounds, except Blind Luck (124).
1 Blind Luck, jockey Joel Rosario, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; odds: 7-5
2 Awesome Maria, jockey Eibar Coa, trainer Todd Pletcher; odds: 9-2
3 Absinthe Minded, jockey Stewart Elliott, trainer D. Wayne Lukas; odds: 15-1
4 Bonnie Blue Flag, jockey Kendrick Carmouche, trainer Bob Baffert; odds: 7-2
5 Havre de Grace, jockey Jeremy Rose, trainer Anthony Dutrow; odds: 9-5