“I never rode her going long, but if you can sit quietly with her, you can get her to rate in the middle of the track and give her a chance,” said Velazquez.
“It’s a mile and a sixteenth, but it’s one turn,” said Baffert, who will also be saddling Karl Watson’s 4-year-old Tough Tiz’s Sis in the Ruffian. “I think she’s relaxing a little bit more. Now is the time to try it.”
At the distance, Indian Blessing has two victories and one second-place finish, having won both the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last year and the Grade 3 Silverbulletday in February over Proud Spell. Proud Spell, the divisional leader and recent winner of the Grade 1 Alabama, then came back to turn the tables on Indian Blessing in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, winning by 2¼ lengths.
“Proud Spell and her, those are two tough fillies,” said Baffert.
Owned by Hal Earnhardt, Indian Blessing will be making her sixth appearance in New York. She began her career last August 30 in Saratoga, winning her maiden by 5¼ lengths, then took the Grade 1 Frizette by 4½ lengths before the Breeders’ Cup. She returned to New York in the Grade 1 Acorn at a mile on June 7, yielding late to Zaftig, then rebounded to win the Grade 1 Prioress and the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga by a combined margin of greater than 12 lengths.
“She was precocious as a two-year-old, and she came back at three and won right off the bat,” said Baffert. “She reminds me of the Silverbulletday and Chilukki, who were the two best fillies I trained. She’s got that kind of quality.”
Although Indian Blessing sports a record of four wins in six starts this year, including two Grade 1’s, and earnings of $640,000, Baffert has no illusions about her repeating as the divisional winner. Instead, he is looking to position Indian Blessing for a start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, won last year by Maryfield, who went on to earn the inaugural Eclipse as the Filly & Mare Sprint Champion.
“In order to be the three-year-old filly champion, I’d have to run her in the Ladies’ Classic (at 1 1/8th miles) and I don’t think I want to do that,” said the trainer. “It’s up to me to put her in the right spot. If all goes well, the Ruffian gives her plenty of time before the Breeders’ Cup [at Santa Anita Oct. 24] and I can just freshen her up for the Filly & Mare Sprint.”
The Ruffian, won last year by older filly and mare champion Ginger Punch, also drew Millenium Farms’ Copper State, runner-up to that one in the Grade 1 Go for Wand at Saratoga; the Phipps’ Stable’s Boca Grande, second in her first start this year at the Spa, and Little Belle, third to Proud Spell in the Grade 1 Alabama, who will be running as part of an entry with Darley Stable’s Stage Luck.
The field for the 33rd running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Ruffian:
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Trainer
1a Little Belle Rajiv Maragh 113 Saeed bin Suroor
2 Rite Moment Eibar Coa 116 Gary Contessa
3 Copper State Sean Bridgmohan 115 Steve Asmussen
4 Indian Blessing John Velazquez 116 Bob Baffert
5 Spring Waltz Javier Castellano 117 Bobby Frankel
6a Stage Luck Corey Nakatani 114 Tom Albertrani
7 Tough Tiz’s Sis Edgar Prado 119 Bob Baffert
8 Boca Grande Cornelio Velasquez 115 Shug McGaughey
9 Miraculous Miss Alan Garcia 115 Steve Klesaris