“You really can’t knock her races; she ran hard in both of them,” said Baffert of Indian Blessing’s runner-up efforts in both the March 8 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and June 7 Acorn (gr. I). “She got beat by two very good fillies (Proud Spell and Zaftig, respectively). We did learn that she doesn’t like to rate, so now we’re just going to let her run and do her thing.”
The six-furlong Prioress will be a cutback in distance for Indian Blessing after running 1 1/16 miles in the Fair Grounds Oaks and a mile in the Acorn. With her early blazing speed, it should set up well for 2007's champion 2-year-old filly. In fact, Indian Blessing will be attempting her shortest distance since breaking her maiden at 5 1/2 furlongs last August at Saratoga.
“I think she’ll like six furlongs,” Baffert added. “This should set her up well for the Test (gr. I, Aug. 2, seven furlongs) at Saratoga. She is training fantastic and she still looks great. We’re having a lot of fun with her. Any time you’re a heavy favorite you’re supposed to win. If you don’t people are going to ask what’s wrong. But there’s nothing to be ashamed about losing to those two fillies. She just needs some racing luck.”
Owned and bred by Hal and Patti Earnhardt, Indian Blessing won the first five starts of her career, including the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) to close out her 2-year-old season. She opened her sophomore campaign with victories in the Santa Ysabel (gr. II) at Santa Anita and Silverbulletday (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. Out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful, she has already earned $1.6 million in her career.
John Velazquez will get the mount for the first time, as Indian Blessing will carry top weight of 122 pounds – two to six pounds more than her seven rivals.
William Stiritz’ Palanka City is the only other filly in the Prioress with a graded win. It came last out in the May 16 Adena Stallions Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III) at Pimlico when the daughter of Carson City stalked the pace and drew off in the stretch to win by 5 1/2 lengths under Christopher Emigh. It was not only the third consecutive win for Palanka City, but the third straight at six furlongs. It makes the Terry Gestes trainee a legitimate threat.
Also a threat is undefeated Malibu Moon filly By the Light, who like Indian Blessing reeled off five consecutive wins to begin her career. The latest was in the May 24 Pearl City Stakes at Belmont, a six-furlong test in which she came from off the pace to score by 1 1/2 lengths. Owned by Jay Em Ess Stable and trained by Rick Dutrow, By the Light was bred in New York.
Also undefeated is Gulf Coast Farms’ Tale of the West. The Todd Pletcher trainee has been very impressive in two starts, winning by a combined 11 3/4 lengths. Unraced as a 2-year-old, she made her debut on the Keeneland Polytrack this spring and then romped in allowance company May 29 at Belmont. With regular rider John Velazquez on Indian Blessing, Eibar Coa gets the mount. Going gate to wire in both starts, Tale of the West could challenge Indian Blessing for the early lead, as could Secret Gypsy.
$250,000 Prioress Stakes (gr. I, Race 9, 5:15 p.m.), Three-Year-Old Fillies, Six Furlongs (Dirt)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Indian Way (KY), 116, Cornelio H. Velasquez
2. Honest to Betsy (KY), 118, Rajiv Maragh
3. Indian Blessing (KY), 122, John R. Velazquez
4. By the Light (NY), 120, Edgar S. Prado
5. Secret Gypsy (KY), 116, Elvis Trujillo
6. Tale of the West (KY), 118, Eibar Coa
7. Palanka City (KY), 120, Christopher A. Emigh