“We’re just glad we have her,” said Baffert of last year’s 2-year-old filly champion. “She’s nice, she’s sweet, she’s a beautiful filly, she’s so consistent. We really enjoy her. And what I’d also like to say about her is …”
Baffert laughed and stopped himself.
“Well, actually, her resume says it all.”
In that one-mile race on Belmont Stakes Day, Indian Blessing led throughout but was no match at the end for another top filly, the Jimmy Jerkens-trained Zaftig, who won by 4 ½ lengths. While Baffert has returned to California, Indian Blessing has remained under the care of Tonja Terranova at Belmont Park, where she turned in a pair of flashy works, going five furlongs in a bullet 59.81 on June 22 and the same distance in 59.10 on June 30.
“She got beat by a real nice filly [Zaftig] in the Acorn,” said Baffert. “We’ve got a neat jockey, and it’s a shorter distance, she’s been training great, and we are very excited about the race.”
Indian Blessing, a daughter of Indian Charlie owned by Hal Earnhardt, will be toting 122 pounds including first-time jockey John Velazquez, as regular rider Garrett Gomez will be at Hollywood Park.
Challenging her in the Prioress will be the 2-0 Tale of the West, a daughter of Tale of the Cat who broke her maiden at Keeneland on April 20 by 7 ¼ lengths for Todd Pletcher and then rolled to a 4 ½ length victory here at Belmont Park on May 29.
Her more experienced opponents include Honest to Betsy, making her 12th starts and first in a Grade 1 race, and Palanka City, winner of the Grade 3 Miss Preakness in her last start for Terry Gestes.
Indian Way, a maiden winner in her second start at Hollywood Park on May 24, Secret Gypsy, third in the Grade 3 Dogwood at Churchill Downs on May 31, and the undefeated By the Light, last year’s New York-bred juvenile filly champion, round out the field.
By the Light, a daughter of Malibu Moon trained by Rick Dutrow, has won five straight by a combined winning margin of 21 lengths, including the $74,000 Pearl City Stakes here at Belmont Park on May 24 in her first start as a 3-year-old.
Baffert is hoping the Prioress will set Indian Blessing up for another scintillating summer at Saratoga, where she broke her maiden by 5 ¼ lengths on August 30 sprinting.
“Hopefully, this will set her up for the Test (Grade 1, August 2, seven furlongs),” said Baffert.
The trainer has big plans for her beyond that, as well.
“I’m talking about her boyfriend, Big Brown – they both got beat their last start so they have something in common,” he said with a laugh. “We’re going to breed her to Big Brown and call the foal Big Blessing.”
The field for Saturday’s Grade 1 Prioress:
PP Horse Jockey Wgt. Trainer
1 Indian Way Cornelio Velasquez 116 Anthony Dutrow
2 Honest to Betsy Rajiv Maragh 118 Dale Romans
3 Indian Blessing John Velazquez 122 Bob Baffert
4 By the Light Edgar Prado 120 Richard Dutrow Jr.
5 Secret Gypsy Elvis Trujillo 116 Ronny Werner
6 Tale of the West Eibar Coa 118 Todd Pletcher
7 Palanka City Chris Emigh 120 Terry Estes