What was a bit of a surprise was that, for only the second time in her career, Indian Blessing was outrun at the start, as Secret Gypsy and By the Light hooked up early and got the first quarter of a mile in 22.30 and the half in .44.74 on the muddy/sealed main track.
Velazquez replaced Garret Gomez who raced at Hollywood Park on Saturday. He remembered that Gomez had rated Indian Blessing when she won the Grade 1 Frizette here as a two-year-old last fall.
Rather than force a fight up front after her slow start in the Prioress, Velazquez simply guided Indian Blessing to the outside, settled her and let her run at the leaders. While most of Indian Blessing’s previous wins have come as a result of her outrunning her competition early, this time she easily rolled up on the outside, took the lead in the stretch and went on to a 5 ¼-length victory in 1:44.
“She broke flat-footed, but I knew they were going to chase me anyway, so it was a blessing in disguise,” Velazquez said. “I was able to take her to the outside. I don’t think she needs to be on the lead. I saw her with Garrett one time and he sat second for about a quarter of a mile. It was awesome (to ride her). She did everything so good. I rode her like she was the best horse and that was the way she ran. It was really easy.”
Indian Blessing, the favorite of the on-track crowd of 5,136, returned $3.30 to win.
For trainer Bob Baffert, who was also at Hollywood Park, the victory helped take the sting out of Tough Tiz’s Sis’s half-length loss to Zenyatta earlier in the Grade 1 Vanity Handicap.
“This was good because I was mad about losing the Vanity,” Baffert said. “Man, we should have won that race, but we were stopped. I could have had two Grade 1 wins today. Instead of winning a Grade 1 with a 7-1 shot, I get a Grade 1 with a 1-9.
“(Indian Blessing) broke slow and she was forced to rate. Johnny (Velazquez) just sat her back there and let her run her race. So, now we know she can rate and that is a dimension you always want to see.”
Baffert plans to run Indian Blessing at the upcoming Saratoga Race Course meet, targeting the Grade 1, $250,000 Test for three-year-old fillies at seven furlongs on Saturday, August 2.
By the Light, Indian Way, Secret Gypsy and Tale of the West completed the order of finish.
Honest to Betsy and Palanka were both scratched.