Three days ago, trainer Larry Jones said he hoped Proud Spell would pressure Indian Blessing through the early lead in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II)(VIDEO
). Although Brereton Jones’ homebred Proud Citizen
filly didn’t exactly do that, she did manage to wear down the Eclipse Award winner and get her own score in the March 8 event in New Orleans.
Indian Blessing may have been her own worst enemy in the 1 1/16-mile event. Adopting her typical running style under Garrett Gomez, she went directly to the lead – but instead of relaxing she appeared overeager and fought her rider’s hold. Gomez managed to settle the Indian Charlie filly through early fractions of :24.53 and :48.17 while jockey Gabriel Saez had Proud Spell tracking along the rail on her own in second. It was eight lengths back to Acacia, who raced in third, while Wisconsin Lady was fourth.
Moving through three-quarters in 1:12.80, Indian Blessing increased her lead to 1 ½ lengths and appeared ready to draw away. Going into the stretch, however, Saez eased his mount away from the rail and set her down for a neck-and-neck drive with the leader. They went a mile in 1:37.40 before Proud Spell claimed the lead and increased it to a 2 ¼-length margin, posting a final time of 1:44.01.
Proud Spell returned $5.80 to win. The $1 exacta, 2-1, paid $4.30, while the $1 pick three, 2-1-3, returned $127.50.
The Fair Grounds Oaks marked the third time these top 3-year-old fillies have duked it out on the racetrack, and the first time Proud Spell got the better of her opponent. Indian Blessing last won the Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds by one length over Proud Spell, then shipped back to California to train under the supervision of Bob Baffert. Last year, the Baffert trainee won the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) by 3 ½ lengths over Proud Spell. At least one more rematch is guaranteed should both fillies make it to the starting gate in the May 4 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Proud Spell, out of the Langfuhr
mare Pacific Spell, now holds a 4-2 record from six starts. Her earnings total $888,770.