The champion filly Indian Blessing won her fifth grade I race when she inherited the lead from an injured Indyanne in the homestretch and went on to victory in the $250,000 La Brea Stakes (gr. I) (VIDEO) at Santa Anita Dec. 27.
Challenged in the lane by 47-1 shot Ginger Pop, Indian Blessing responded to right-handed urging from jockey John Velazquez to score a 1 1/2-length win in the seven-furlong test for 3-year-old fillies on the Pro-Ride synthetic racing surface. Patti and Hal Earnhardt's Kentucky homebred Indian Blessing, a daughter of Indian Charlie, gave trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth win in the La Brea.
Indyanne, who had won five of seven starts, led the field into the stretch and was battling on the inside against Indian Blessing. The gray filly took a bad step nearing mid-stretch. She was pulled up by jockey Russell Baze.
According to track veterinarian Jill Bailey, Indyanne has a fractured left front sesamoid. The two-time grade III winner was placed in a splint and returned to trainer Greg Gilchrist's barn for a private veterinary examination.
Following the examination, Gilchrist was optimistic.
“It looks like she’s going to be saved,” he said. “The good part is the outside sesamoid is perfect and she tore very few ligaments. Her chance for recovery is 65-35 to be just fine as a broodmare. She’ll have surgery in the next three days. This could have been a lot worse.’”
“She was running good," Baze said. "Turning for home, she switched leads and then went wrong in her left front."
Sent off as the 3-5 choice in the first leg of the La Canada series for fillies bred in 2005, Indian Blessing paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10. Ginger Pop returned $19.20 and $6.80. Bsharpsonata was $2.40 to show.
Indyanne, also a daughter of Indian Charlie, set moderate fractions of :22.52 and :45.06 and was leading by a half-length in the lane when tragedy struck. Ginger Pop, gradually closing while between rivals for jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., nosed second-choice Bsharpsonata and Rafael Bejarano, charging from the outside, for the runner-up spot.
“I didn’t want her to go head and head with (Indyanne) so I took a pretty good hold away from the gate," Velazquez said. "When she made the lead, she was waiting on those other horses, but she ran awesome. She’s run very well on this track, but I really think she’s four or five lengths better on the dirt.”
Indian Blessing, coming off a second-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Oct. 24, won for the ninth time in 12 lifetime starts. Last year's Eclipse Award winner as the nation's best juvenile filly, she has earned $2,437,200 in her career. This was her sixth victory, including three grade I triumphs, in nine starts this year. She tallied her second victory in three tries on synthetic tracks.
“This was a bittersweet win," Baffert said. "I’m very sad about what happened to the other gray filly (Indyanne)."
Baffert said the $2 million Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) at the Dubai World Cup on March 28 is the target for Indian Blessing.
"She’s better than she was for the Breeders’ Cup," he added. "She’s stronger now. When I got her back from New York (after winning the grade II Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park on Sept. 20) she was a little bit light. She ran well (in the Breeders’ Cup), but she didn’t run like she did today."
It was 1 3/4 lengths to fourth-place finisher Foxy Danseur, who was followed by Never Retreat and Laureldean Gale. Country Star, who trainer Bobby Frankel is pointing to the 1 1/16-mile El Encino (gr. II) Jan. 18, the second race in the series, was scratched, as was Accopela Choir and She's Cheeky.
Indian Blessing is out the Flying Chevron mare Shameful.