Trainer Bob Baffert said he wanted to test his champion Indian Blessing over Hollywood Park's Cushion Track before deciding which way to go with her this summer. After her fourth-place finish in the $72,800 Desert Stormer Stakes (VIDEO) June 14, a race won in front-running style by Coco Belle, the Hall of Fame conditioner had his answer.
"She won't run here again," he told TVG immediately after Indian Blessing's first try over the Inglewood track. "She loves New York, always runs well, so we'll go there. She probably need this race real bad."
The Desert Stormer was the first race for Indian Blessing since her game second-place effort in the $2 million Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) on Dubai World Cup night March 28 at Nad al Sheba. Like countless others over the years, she did not perform as expected in her first race back home at odds of 1-2.
“She just wasn’t getting over it like she usually can," Baffert said. "It wasn’t her. Usually she cruises up there pretty easy and just kicks on. Today at the top of the stretch I could tell he (jockey Victor Espinoza) was out of horse. You never know how they’re going to react after Dubai, that’s why I wanted to run her here. Maybe she needs a little more time but we’ll just regroup and send her back East where she loves to be.”
The winner, Coco Belle, turned in a big effort under Mike Smith to win by 3 3/4 lengths at odds of 8-1. Silver Swallow, who rallied to finish second, was also at 8-1. One length back came 14-1 shot She's Cheeky. Those odds created some nice $2 exacta ($132.60) and trifecta ($810.40) results, but the eye-popping payouts came for the $2 show returns with Indian Blessing out of the money.
The show pool was $522,293, with $484,538 bet on Indian Blessing, resulting in show payoffs of $37.60 on Coco Belle, $40.60 on Silver Swallow and $43.60 on She's Cheeky.
After jumping to the early lead from her far outside post, Coco Belle set a solid pace for the six-furlong event for fillies and mares -- :22.12 for the opening quarter-mile, :44.66 for the half -- with Indian Blessing stalking in second for Espinoza about one length behind. Rounding the bend, Espinoza began to urge Indian Blessing, who stayed close into the stretch while working hard to do it. As they battled down the lane, Coco Belle got away and proved a comfortable winner under slight urging from Smith.
"I wasn't surprised at the easy lead, I was surprised how great she ran," Smith said of Coco Belle. "I knew she was good, but she ran incredible today. She's just coming into herself right now and it's certainly a good time with Del Mar coming up. She loves that track, too. She's getting better and better and I'm really excited about her."
John Sadler trains the 5-year-old Storm Boot mare for Jerry and Ann Moss, who bred her from the Meadowlake mare Nezzi.
“The reason you don’t scratch is the history of those horses coming back from Dubai is not great,” Sadler said. “Am I surprised to win? Sure. My filly is in good form again. She’s had a nice win over the track and the way she ran today I might even run her in the A Gleam (on July 18). We wanted to be up front, but we were surprised the other mare didn’t run very well.”
Coco Belle won for the seventh time in 23 starts and increased her earnings to $450,113. She paid $18.60 for the win.
Silver Swallow, swinging wide in the stretch for Garrett Gomez, gained the place spot over She's Cheeky and Alex Solis. Indian Blessing held fourth by a head over Free Flying Soul, finishing 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner.