The presumptive 2-year-old champion filly of 2007 heads a field of seven for the seven-furlong Cushion Track test while shouldering 123 pounds. Garrett Gomez, who guided Patti and Hal Ernhardt's homebred daughter of Indian Charlie to runaway front-running victories in both the Frizette (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup, will be aboard once again.
Indian Blessing won her three starts in 2007 by 13 1/4 lengths while earning $1,357,200. This is to be her first start since the BC Juvenile Fillies Oct. 27.
“She’s never been tested,” said Baffert, who has trained Eclipse Award-winning 2-year-old fillies Silverbulletday (1998) and Chilukki (1999). “You never really know how good they are until they get tested, but Indian Blessing is a very, very good one.”
If she runs to her 2-year-old form, Indian Blessing is unlikely to get much of a test here, either. But a showdown with Eclipse Award finalist Country Star awaits in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) on March 8. Indian Blessing drew post 3 for her first start on a synthetic racing strip.
“She’s a very tactical filly, and you can put her where you want,” said Gomez, who expects no problem with cutting back in distance on Sunday. Indian Blessing won her racing debut by 5 1/4 lengths over 5 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga Aug. 30. She worked six furlongs in a blistering 1:10 at Hollywood Park on Jan. 4.
Izarra, making her first start since finishing 10th in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, presents the biggest challenge in the Santa Ynez.
Trained by Ron McAnally for owner/breeder Janis R. Whitham, Izarra has shown a fondness for racing on synthetics. The Distorted Humor filly broke her maiden on Del Mar's Polytrack by nearly four lengths in July, then ran third while closing much ground late in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I) Sept. 3. In her race prior to the Breeders' Cup, the bay was nosed out in spite of a valiant effort by Cry and Catch Me in Oak Tree's 1 1/16-mile Oak Leaf (gr. I) on the Santa Anita Cushion Track.
Izarra, to be ridden by Joe Talamo, receives nine pounds from Indian Blessing.
Under the race conditions, Golden Doc A, with a 2-1-1 record in eight starts, will carry the same weight as Indian Blessing. The California-bred daughter of Unusual Heat won the Anoakia over the course Oct. 20 for trainer Barry Abrams. She is coming off a second-place finish in the Blue Norther on the turf Dec. 30.
Champagne Eyes broke her maiden by two lengths at Santa Anita going 1 1/16 miles Dec. 31 after beginning her career with three starts against stakes company. Her best showing was a second in the Sharp Cat at Hollywood Park Nov. 17. Doug O'Neill trains the daughter of Flatter for Suarez Racing.
P. S. U. Grad makes her first appearance for Craig Dollase since running last of 10 in the Oak Leaf Sept. 29. Nook and Granny comes out of a second-place finish in the Arizona Juvenile Filly at Turf Paradise Dec. 29 for trainer David La Croix. Peisinoe gets a test for class after winning the first two starts of her career for Paddy Gallagher.
The Santa Ynez, which will go as the day’s third race, is one of three graded stakes for fillies on the 11-race program. The others are the $150,000 El Encino Stakes (gr. II) for 4-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles and the $100,000 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. III) for 3-year olds at 1 1/16 miles.
$150,000 Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II, Race 3, 12:45 p.m.), 3-Year-Old Fillies, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Champagne Eyes (KY), 114, Michael C. Baze
2. Izarra (KY), 114, Joseph Talamo
3. Indian Blessing (KY), 123, Garrett K. Gomez
4. Nook and Granny (FL), 114, Richard Migliore
5. P. S. U. Grad (KY), 121, David R. Flores
6. Peisinoe (FL), 116, Alex O. Solis
7. Golden Doc A (CA), 123, Rafael Bejarano