Hal and Patti Earnhardt’s homebred Indian Blessing will try to rebound from the worst start of her career, as she ships to Florida for the first time to take on eight challengers in the $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap (gr. I) July 11 at Calder Race Course.
The Princess Rooney is a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the $1 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 6. Along with the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II), it’s also the co-feature on Calder’s Summit of Speed day program that boasts seven sprint stakes worth a total of $1.45 million. Post time for the Rooney is set for 4:26 p.m. EDT.
Carrying top weight of 123 pounds, Indian Blessing enters the six-furlong Rooney off a disappointing fourth-place finish in the ungraded Desert Stormer June 14 at Hollywood, her only off-the-board finish in 14 lifetime starts. She was in contention at the top of the stretch but weakened to finish 5 1/2 lengths off the pace. The two-time Eclipse Award winner was making her second start of the season and first since returning from Dubai, where she finished runner-up in the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) in March.
A 4-year-old daughter of Indian Charlie—Shameful, by Flying Chevron, Indian Blessing has earned more than $2.8 million in her career. She won five consecutive races to begin her career en route to becoming champion 2-year-old filly in 2007 and champion female sprinter in 2008. The dark bay or brown filly has five grade I scores, including the Frizette (gr. I), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Prioress (gr. I), and Test (gr. I). Her last win came in December in the La Brea (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
Mike Smith will ride Indian Blessing, the 5-2 morning-line favorite, for trainer Bob Baffert and break from post 3. It will be his first time aboard.
A trio of capable fillies have also shipped in for the Rooney. Among them is multiple graded stakes winner Game Face, who will be looking to bounce back from off-the-board finishes in the May 2 Humana Distaff (gr. I) at Churchill Downs and May 24 Vagrancy (gr. I) at Belmont Park, where she was sixth and fifth, respectively, as the beaten favorite. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Game Face’s biggest wins have come in Florida. The 4-year-old daughter of Menifee won the Old Hat (gr. III), First Lady (gr. III), and Inside Information (gr. II) – all at Gulfstream Park. Edgar Prado has the mount on the 3-1 second choice.
Coming in from Kentucky is Bret Calhoun trainee Dubai Majesty, who captured the Winning Colors (gr. III) May 25 at Churchill for her first graded stakes triumph. The former claimer began her career at Calder, where she broke her maiden and won four of eight starts.
Also coming out of the Winning Colors is Keep the Peace, who finished runner-up in that race after a troubled trip. It was the fifth time that the Touch Gold filly has been graded stakes-placed for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
A trio of locally-based horses trained by Marty Wolfson are also in the mix, led by Valid Expectations Stakes winner Pious Ashley, who came from well off the pace to score in the Lone Star Park event on May 25.