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Handicap won't stop Pollard's Vision from running in Derby

Knight Ridder newspapers

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Todd Pletcher calls it "positive karma."

Yes, that's it. That's what we'll call the story of Pollard's Vision, the colt blind in one eye owned by a man blind in one eye. That's what you call the story about a colt running in the Kentucky Derby named after Seabiscuit's visually impaired jockey.

Positive karma. And perhaps a little Harry Potter magic courtesy of a 7-year-old girl?

"It's all good stuff," Pletcher said, smiling.

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It begins with Illinois Derby winner Pollard's Vision, a bay son of Carson City who lost the sight in his right eye because of an illness as a yearling. While his breeding and conformation suggested a colt who might sell for $400,000, there were few takers when he was led into the sales ring in April 2002 at Keeneland in Kentucky.

One of the few to look closely at the colt was David Moore, a retired investment banker who lost the sight in his left eye when he was 12.

Pletcher recalled Moore being "intrigued" by the colt. "He thought it was a little romantic," he said.

Moore admitted this week "there was definitely a kinship" with the colt. After having three veterinarians look at Pollard's Vision, Pletcher and Moore discussed the positives and negatives of having a horse blind in one eye.

"The biggest concern was that he might not react well in race scenarios with a lot of horses and dirt in his face," Pletcher said. "But the pluses were he lost the vision in his eye at an early time in his life so he was accustomed to dealing with one eye as opposed to horses who lose an eye halfway through their career and have raced a number of times with two eyes."

Pletcher recalled training a filly five years before who lost an eye from a stall accident.

"She didn't do anything noteworthy before or after that," he said. "So I think we took a very practical approach to it. We have a horse with one eye training good at a 2-year-old sale, so we'll (bid) and train him like he's regular horse."

"It was one of those things that worked out. The one thing we knew was that we wouldn't have to pay a lot of money for the colt. We felt (the blindness in his right eye) would hold his price down. We felt we were going to pay around $75,000 to $100,000, and we ended up getting him for $70,000."

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Moore, who purchased his first of seven horses two years ago, had two others in training at the time he bought Pollard's Vision. Those horses, Hermoine's Magic and Flitwick's Charms, were named by his daughter, Charlotte, after Harry Potter characters.

When it was time to christen the colt with one good eye, Charlotte chose Pollard's Vision after Seabiscuit's jockey Red Pollard, who was blind in his right eye.

Pletcher was impressed with the colt when he saw him work that April at Keeneland. But Pletcher said he had doubts when Pollard's Vision was beaten 22 1/2 lengths in his debut July 5 at Belmont Park.

"I said, 'Man, we might have made a bad decision. Did we make a big error?"" Pletcher said. "He broke poorly, dirt hit him in the face and he checked out in a hurry. But he trained very well. We were expecting him to run well. But a lot of horses with two eyes will do the same thing. They'll break slow, dirt will hit them, and they don't know how to handle it. But his second start went perfectly."

Pollard's Vision broke his maiden in his next start Aug. 1 at Saratoga by 12 1/2 lengths. And after wintering and maturing in South Florida this year, Pollard's Vision finished third March 7 in the Louisiana Derby before winning the Illinois Derby a month ago. And now there's Saturday's $1.2 million Derby, where everything has gone smoothly this week for Pollard's Vision. Even the post-position draw.

Pletcher was hoping to get an outside post so Pollard's Vision could see everything inside him. Pletcher got his wish, and Pollard's Vision will break from post No. 17.

"It's astonishing in terms of the great luck we've had," Moore said. "It's a wonderful game. My daughter's enthusiasm and interest in it just makes it 10 times better. And, frankly, she's had as much or more confidence in this horse than anybody, including myself. The first horse race she ever went to was Pollard's Vision's first race, which obviously wasn't a lot of fun. But she walked out saying, 'It's OK. He'll do better.""

Moore took in his surroundings at the Kentucky Derby Museum. "I'm wildly, wildly fortunate to be here."

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