INDIAN BLESSING READY TO RUN AT BELMONT
One year ago, INDIAN BLESSING (Indian Charlie) won the Gallant Bloom H. (G2) at Belmont Park en route to being named champion female sprinter, her second Eclipse Award after winning juvenile filly honors in 2007.
Now a four-year-old and approaching the end of her career, the dark bay lass heads into Saturday's 16th edition of the Gallant Bloom with a different set of goals.
Still seeking her first victory of the year, a second consecutive win in the 6 1/2-furlong race worth $150,000 would both guarantee Indian Blessing a spot in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1) on November 6 and represent a long-awaited return to form.
"She's back to her old self," Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. "When she's doing fantastic, she just needs racing luck. I expect a really big effort from her Saturday."
Indian Blessing started the year off facing males in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-G1) at Nad Al Sheba in March, finishing second, then returned from a three-month layoff to run fourth in the Desert Stormer H. at Hollywood Park on June 14, and did not race again until the August 29 Ballerina S. (G1) at Saratoga.
"I think she's finally come full circle," Baffert said. "She had some problems with her feet (this summer) and we lost time with her. We were a little short coming into the Ballerina and that showed in the last part when the serious running started."
Indian Blessing finished second in that seven-furlong test, beaten 5 1/4 lengths in the slop by Music Note (A.P. Indy).
"She got tired the last eighth of a mile," Baffert said. "That day, you saw about 80 percent of Indian Blessing; this time we're hoping you'll see that extra 20 percent. "
Tonja Terranova, Baffert's New York assistant, will saddle both Indian Blessing, the 123-pound highweight and 8-5 morning line second choice in the field of seven, and P. S. U GRAD (Harlan's Holiday), fourth in the Ballerina, for the California-based trainer.
Stepping up to face her elders in only the sixth start of her career is SARA LOUISE (Malibu Moon), who was last seen taking the Victory Ride S. (G3) at Saratoga on August 29, her first race since November 2008. Purchased by Godolphin in January, the sophomore miss was previously trained by Dale Romans and it was under his care that she beat super filly Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d'Oro) in the Pocahontas S. (G3) at Churchill Downs on November 1, making her the last horse to defeat the exceptional filly.
"In a perfect world, we'd probably keep her against three-year old fillies," said Rick Mettee, assistant to Godolphin head trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "But this is simply the best spot we could find for her right now and Saeed thought that if she could run against older fillies going six and a half furlongs, we could have a chance going seven-eighths in the Breeders' Cup (Filly & Mare Sprint)."
In the Victory Ride, Sara Louise launched a late run to overpower the front-running Bold Union (Dixie Union), who had been pressured all the way around a sloppy oval by Juliet's Spirit (Exchange Rate). Bold Union returned two weeks ago to add the Endine S. (G3) to her resume.
"She's run a good race every race of her life so far," Mettee said of Sara Louise. "Running down those fillies in the slop wasn't easy and I hope we get a good pace in there (on Saturday) because it's not going to be easy to run these fillies down either."
Sara Louise, the morning line favorite at 7-5, will get the services of Hall of Fame rider Edgar Prado and carry 117 pounds.
Returning from a four-month layoff is ANY LIMIT (Limit Out), who was last seen running fourth in the Vagrancy H. (G2) here on May 24. Prior to that, the six-year-old bay had spent the winter at Gulfstream trading 1-2 finishes with eventual Grade 1 winner Game Face (Menifee) for Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens. Any Limit he will carry 119 pounds, including jockey Cornelio Velasquez, in the Gallant Bloom.
Completing the field are AMERICAN QUEEN (Quiet American), who is making her graded bow Saturday; SKY HAVEN (Sky Mesa), a three-year-old filly who finished fourth in the Victory Ride for trainer Steve Asmussen; and THUNDERS DOVE (Thunderello), who earned a fifth straight victory when taking her 2009 bow in the Addison Mallery S. at Saratoga on August 16 following a 10-month layoff.
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