Back On Track, Indian Blessing Eyes Test

Back On Track, Indian Blessing Eyes Test
Photo: Coglianese Photos
Indian Blessing will try to keep the winning momentum going in the Test.
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Indian Blessing, who rebounded from consecutive defeats with a resounding victory in the July 5 Prioress (gr. I), returns to Saratoga for the first time since breaking her maiden when she takes on five 3-year-old fillies in the $250,000 Darley Test (gr. I) Aug. 2.

Last year’s champion 2-year-old filly, Indian Blessing will be trying for her fifth grade I score and seventh victory in nine lifetime starts in the seven-furlong Test. The daughter of Indian Charlie is undefeated when going less than a mile. John Velazquez, who rode her for the first time in the Prioress, will retain the mount for trainer Bob Baffert.

“She has been a blessing,” Baffert said.  “She’s been so good to us all along. Around the barn she’s a real sweetheart, but when she gets on the track she has that competitive edge.”

Indian Blessing entered the Prioress off runner-up performances in the March 8 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) and June 7 Acorn (gr. I). But the six-furlong Prioress was never in doubt, as she took over after a half-mile and drew clear for a 5 1/4-length triumph on Belmont’s muddy track. Her final time was 1:09.36, leaving little doubt that Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s Kentucky homebred was back in form.

On July 26 at Saratoga, Indian Blessing blistered five furlongs in :59.46, the third best of 93 works that day. It was her first time returning to the Spa since breaking her maiden by more than five lengths Aug. 30 of last year.

Out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful, Indian Blessing has already earned $1,847,200 in her short career. She drew the outside post six for the Test.

A challenge could come from William Stiritz’ Palanka City, who has won three straight including a convincing score in her graded stakes debut. That start came May 16 in the mud at Pimlico, as the daughter of Carson City rolled to an easy 5 1/2-length win in the six-furlong Miss Preakness Stakes (gr. III). Previously trained by midwest-based Terry Gestes, Palanka City is 5-2-1 from 10 starts, with two of her defeats to Eight Belles and Sky Mom. She was supposed to go in the Prioress but was scratched after failing to appear in the Belmont security barn on time. Shortly thereafter she was transferred into the barn of Barclay Tagg.

Palanka City has also been working well at Saratoga. On July 22 she posted a four-furlong bullet time of :47.24 on a "wet fast" track. Eibar Coa will get the mount for the first time on the chestnut filly and likely will stalk speedy Indian Blessing.

Two other challengers, J Z Warrior and Sweet Hope, will be entering the Test off stakes wins. Zayat Stables’ J Z Warrior led from start to finish in the Dearly Precious June 21 at Monmouth Park, taking the six-furlong sprint by four lengths under Joe Bravo. Although the Bill Mott trainee is 2-2-2 from seven starts, she has been beaten soundly in both graded stakes tries. The last one was in the May 3 Nassau County Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont when she was nearly 10 lengths back in third.

High Bank Syndicate’s Sweet Hope has won two of three starts since coming to the states this year and is 2-for-2 on natural dirt. The Lemon Drop Kid  filly made the first seven starts of her career on synthetics or turf in England before shipping to California this spring. She won an allowance at Bay Meadows before finishing fourth in the May 11 Railbird (gr. III) at Hollywood. Sweet Hope moved to the barn of Larry Jones in late May. In her first start for Jones, she won the Beautiful Day Stakes by three lengths June 23 at Delaware Park. Ramon Dominguez will ride in the Test.

$250,000 Darley Test (gr. I, Race 10, 5:45 p.m.), Three-Year-Old Fillies, Seven Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Tequilas Dayjur (KY), 116, Edgar S. Prado
2. Palanka City (KY), 118, Eibar Coa
3. Sweet Hope (KY), 116, Ramon A. Dominguez
4. Ms. Margaret H. (KY) , 116, Robby Albarado
5. J Z Warrior (KY), 116, Kent J. Desormeaux
6. Indian Blessing (KY), 122, John R. Velazquez

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