In a recent Q&A with The Blood-Horse staff writer Jason Shandler, trainer Bob Baffert said the Eclipse Award-winning Indian Blessing is “so talented, I think she can handle anything.” The 3-year-old daughter of Indian Charliewill only have to handle three other runners in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) March 8, but the trainers of those horses are familiar with her style and will do their best to end the unbeaten filly’s five-race winning streak.
Indian Blessing, a Kentucky homebred owned by Patti and Hal Earnhardt III out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful, will ship back to New Orleans from Baffert’s California base for the 1 1/16-mile Oaks, the eighth event on a 12-race Louisiana Derby Day card. Jockey Garrett Gomez also ships in to ride the filly, who has been given 3-5 morning-line odds and breaks from the rail.
Tackling Indian Blessing for the third time is Brereton Jones’ Kentucky homebred Proud Spell, whose second-place effort in the Feb. 9 Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) came one length behind the Baffert trainee after a similar finish 3 ½-lengths back in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) last Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. Between the two races, Proud Spell remained in training while Indian Blessing won the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita in her 3-year-old debut.
“In a race like this, we’re gonna have to do all our own dirty work,” said trainer Larry Jones, who last sent the Proud Citizen filly to a five-furlong breeze in 1:03 flat at Fair Grounds March 3. “We’ll try to put enough pressure on (Indian Blessing) so she doesn’t sit out there and get an easy trip on the lead. The other two aren’t going to have enough speed to put on her, which leaves us with the job. It could be a merry-go-round race, where they all come home the way they started.”
Out of the Langfuhr mare Pacific Spell, Proud Spell was unbeaten prior to the Breeders’ Cup, with a definitive 4 ¼-length victory in Belmont’s Sept. 15 Matron Stakes (gr. II), marking her as one of the season’s top 3-year-olds. Regular rider Gabriel Saez will be in the saddle from post position two aboard the 6-5 morning-line second choice.
“She’s been doing very well and we’re pleased with the way she’s coming along,” Jones said. “We think she’s sitting on a big effort.”
The two others entered in the Fair Grounds Oaks are young fillies still looking to build solid careers. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Acacia, a daughter of Cherokee Run bred in Kentucky by Tony Holmes and Walter Zent, was a $260,000 Keeneland November mixed sale weanling purchase. Out of the A.P. Indymare Checkered Flag, she broke her maiden last time out Feb. 22 at Fair Grounds for trainer Steve Asmussen in her fifth career start. Shaun Bridgmohan rides from post three.
John Menard’s Kentucky homebred Wisconsin Lady, most recently second in a Feb. 23 Fair Grounds allowance event, seeks another win since breaking her maiden first time out at Churchill Downs last November. Since then, the Stephen Got Evenfilly has turned in third- and fifth-place efforts in addition to the Fair Grounds place. Out of the Seeking the Gold mare Tomisue’s Pleasure, she’ll have Robby Albarado aboard and drew the outside post.
$400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II, race 8, approximate post 4:48 p.m. CST), 1 1/16 miles for 3-year-old fillies, dirt
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Indian Blessing, 121, Garrett Gomez
2. Proud Spell, 121, Gabriel Saez
3. Acacia, 121, Shaun Bridgmohan
4. Wisconsin Lady, 121, Robby Albarado