For the third consecutive time, heavy favorite Indian Blessing demolished sprint rivals when she coasted to victory by 6 1/4 lengths in the $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. II) (VIDEO) at Belmont Park Sept. 20.
This was the first time that the 3-year-old Indian Blessing, a homebred daughter of Indian Charlie owned by Hal and Patti Earnhardt and trained by Bob Baffert, took on older horses. Her chief rival, Sugar Swirl, the co-high weight with Indian Blessing at 119 pounds, was scratched by trainer Bobby Frankel, reducing the field to four for the 6 1/2-furlong test on the main track.
Breaking from the rail, 3-10 choice Indian Blessing, the nation's champion filly at 2, got some early pressure directly to her outside from Zada Belle, who led through a fast opening quarter mile of :22.70. By the time they reached the quarter pole, Indian Blessing had taken command with an opening half of :45.09 and was leaving her pace rival behind without being asked by jockey Corey Nakatani, who was aboard the dark bay for the first time.
Indian Blessing was challenged briefly in upper stretch by Elope, who had angled out for the drive by Ramon Dominguez, but she responded to some urging by Nakatani to draw away impressively. She finished strongly in a time of 1:16.24.
"I was pretty patient waiting to call on her turning for home," Nakatani said. "I called on her, and she kicked away and did what she had to do to win. It’s like driving a Ferrari.”
So dominant over female sprinters, the question now becomes whether Indian Blessing will attempt to take on males in the Sentient Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Oct. 25.
Elope, making just her third start for trainer Bruce Levine after beginning her career with two impressive victories, was a clear runner-up by five lengths. Porte Bonheur and jockey Channing Hill finishing third. Zada Belle trailed.
After faltering twice earlier this year, Indian Blessing has been completely dominant in three successive sprint races while facing small fields. She won Saratoga's Darley Test (gr. I) by seven lengths in her last start Aug. 2, that coming a month after a 5 1/4-length triumph in the Prioress (gr. I) at Belmont.
The Gallant Bloom was Indian Blessing's eighth victory in 10 starts with two runner-up finishes. She was undefeated in three starts at 2, wrapping up Eclipse Award honors with a powerful front-running display in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). She has four grade I wins to her credit.
“She’s just been doing incredible," said Tonja Terranova, New York stable manager for Baffert. "She’s been so relaxed. She’s been so willing (to do) anything that the rider wants. We’ve been very happy with her. She’s a champion and a dream to be around.”
Indian Blessing is out of the Flying Chevron mare Shameful.
With the winner's share of $90,000, Indian Blessing increased her earnings to $2,087,200. She paid $2.70 and $2.10. Elope returned $2.80. The $2 exacta was worth $5.60.