Friday, August 01, 2008
“THE FRANCHISE HORSE” RETURNS TO SPA IN THE TEST
When they talk about Indian Blessing around trainer Bob Baffert’s barn, they don’t always call the Eclipse award-winning filly by name.
Sometimes they simply call her “The Franchise Horse.”
“She has been a blessing,” said Baffert of Indian Blessing, who heads a field of six for Saturday’s 83rd running of the Grade 1, $250,000 Test for three-year-old fillies. “She’s been so good to us all along. Around the barn she’s a real sweetheart, but when she gets on the track she has that competitive edge.”
“When I had her at Del Mar, before I was running her, she was really showing us [something],” said Baffert. “The really good ones tip themselves off.”
Five weeks after her maiden victory, Indian Blessing romped in the Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont Park, and then beat Proud Spell by 3 ½ lengths to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies in the slop at Monmouth Park and earn divisional honors as the top two-year-old filly in the country.
The filly, owned and bred by Hal and Patti Earnhardt, who are visiting Saratoga for the first time this season, began her three-year-old campaign with victories in the Grade 2 Santa Ynez and the Grace 3 Silverbulletday at the Fair Grounds, but then suffered back-to-back defeats, finishing second in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks and the Grade 1 Acorn at Belmont.
“When I took her back to the Fair Grounds and we were trying to rate her – she got beat by a good filly (Proud Spell), you can’t take that away from her,” said Baffert. “In the Acorn, she broke a little slow and then punched her way into the race and she just took off. She got beat by a good filly(Zaftig) there, too.”
In her last start, however, Indian Blessing finally showed the extra dimension Baffert had been looking for, staying off the early pace and then sweeping widest of all on the turn to take the Grade 1 Prioress by 5 ¼ lengths at Belmont Park on July 5.
“I don’t know if she really rated more so than she got out-footed away from there,” said the trainer, who will again give John Velazquez a leg up in the Test. “I like the way at least she just didn’t run off from behind them. She relaxed. She actually was working that way before the Acorn.
“The older they get, they start relaxing a little bit more and getting with the program.”
With five graded stakes wins, three of them Grade 1s, Indian Blessing appears to tower over her rivals in the seven-furlong Test, a fact not lost on Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.
“It’s a very tough race, without a doubt,” said Mott, who will saddle Zayat Stables’ J Z Warrior., who was third to Acorn winner Zaftig in the Grade 3 Nassau County on May 3 and won the Dearly Precious at Monmouth Park in her last start.
Trainer Ian Wilkes, who will saddle Ms. Margaret H. in her first stakes start, agreed.
“The good thing is, I haven’t shown the filly the Daily Racing Form,” he joked. Ms. Margaret H., a daughter of Point Given, was winless in her first six starts but looked sharp when she finally broke her maiden at Churchill Downs, rallying from last, and followed that up with another last-to-first victory in a seven-furlong allowance.
“She’s taken a little while to mature mentally and physically,” said Wilkes of Ms. Margaret H., who was second in her last start. “She’s been very consistent this year.”
Completing the field is Palanka City, the only other graded stakes winner in the race, having won the Grade 3 Miss Preakness on May 16; Sweet Hope, who began her career in Europe and who will be making her second start for trainer Larry Jones, and Tequila’s Dayjur, second in the Grade 3 Chicago Breeders’ Cup Handicap at Arlington Park on June 28.
The field for the 83rd running of the Grade 1 Test:
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Trainer
1 Tequila’s Dayjur Edgar Prado 116 Thomas Moungey
2 Palanka City Eibar Coa 118 Barclay Tagg
3 Sweet Hope Ramon Dominguez 116 Larry Jones
4 Ms. Margaret H. Robby Albarado 116 Ian Wilkes
5 J Z Warrior Kent Desormeaux 116 Bill Mott
6 Indian Blessing John Velazquez 122 Bob Baffert
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