Prioress: Indian Blessing Back On Top
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Indian Blessing takes the Prioress under John Velazquez.
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Cutting back to six furlongs, Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s Eclipse Award-winning filly Indian Blessing returned to the winner’s circle for the first time since February, as she took over at the top of the stretch and drew away for a convincing 5 1/4-length score in the $250,000 Prioress (gr. I) Stakes (VIDEO) July 5 in the mud at Belmont Park.

Ridden by John Velazquez for the first time, Indian Blessing broke uncharacteristically slow, rated towards the outside, and finally found her best gear in the straightaway. The 3-year-old daughter of Indian Charliestopped the clock in 1:09.36.

Paul Rothfuss’ By the Light finished second under Edgar Prado, 3 1/2 lengths in front of Indian Way and Cornelio Velasquez. The Prioress went to post with only five starters, as Honest to Betsy and Palanka City were scratches.

Bred in Kentucky by the Earnhardts, Indian Blessing won for the sixth time in eight starts and recorded her fifth graded victory. The Bob Baffert trainee locked up her champion 2-year-old filly campaign last October by winning the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) on the Monmouth Park slop, but entered the Prioress off consecutive runner-up performances in the March 8 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and June 7 Acorn Stakes (gr. I), both routes. She had not traveled less than seven furlongs since breaking her maiden at Saratoga last August.

Earlier in the week Baffert said that the speedy filly would not be rated, but that’s exactly what Velazquez did, as Indian Blessing broke fourth while chasing By the Light, Secret Gypsy, and Tale of the West through the first quarter. Secret Gypsy was in the lead after the first call, getting a quarter-mile in :22.20.

In stalking position as they rounded the turn, Indian Blessing moved into contention at the quarter-pole and found herself right alongside Secret Gypsy and Secret Light for the drive. Coming from the three-path, Indian Blessing began inching away at the top of the stretch and drew away with every stride.

“She broke flat-footed, but I knew they were going to chase me anyway, so it was a blessing in disguise," Velazquez said. "I was able to take her to the outside. I don’t think she needs to be on the lead. I saw her with Garrett (Gomez) one time and he sat second for about a quarter of a mile. It was awesome (to ride her). She did everything so good. I rode her like she was the best horse and that was the way she ran. It was really easy.”  

Going off as the 3-5 favorite, the winner paid $3.30, $2.60. and $2.10 The exacta (3-4) returned $8.80.

Out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful, Indian Blessing boosted her earnings to $1,847,200.

“She broke slow and she was forced to rate," Baffert said. "Johnny just sat her back there and let her run her race. So, now we know she can rate and that is a dimension you always want to see. Now, we’ll bring her to Saratoga for the Test (gr. I, seven furlongs, Aug. 2).”  

(Chart, Equibase)

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