MIAMI -- Todd Pletcher pretty much summed up the thoughts of each of his fellow trainers in Saturday's $350,000 Princess Rooney Handicap after hearing the news early Thursday that Indian Blessing would be scratched.
"I'm glad she's not coming," he said.
Indian Blessing might not be the imposing presence she was during her championship 3-year-old campaign in 2008, but she still would have been the heavy favorite and horse to beat in the Princess Rooney. Her absence leaves the door wide open for one of the eight remaining fillies and mares in the lineup to become a Grade 1 winner, including the Pletcher-trained Game Face.
The Princess Rooney, a Win and You're In race for the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, is the only Grade 1 race on the Calder stakes schedule and one of four graded races and seven stakes overall on the Summit of Speed program.
Game Face was the queen of the filly and mare sprint division this winter at Gulfstream Park, winning both the Grade 2 Inside Information and Grade 3 First Lady stakes, while also finishing second in the Grade 3 Hurricane Bertie. But she's disappointed as the favorite in two subsequent starts, finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs and fifth in Belmont Park's Grade 2 Vagrancy.
"I didn't think she ran badly over the sloppy track at Churchill Downs, and in retrospect I probably brought her back too soon in her next start," Pletcher said. "We freshened her up with this race in mind, she's trained well, and I'm assuming she'll run very well if she handles that track down there."
Game Face does her best running from just off the pace and she figures to have plenty of pace to run at in the Princess Rooney, with Dubai Majesty and Marina Ballerina in the lineup.
Dubai Majesty finished third in the Humana Distaff after opening a long lead at midstretch. She bounced back off that performance to turn in a game effort capturing the Grade 3 Winning Colors three weeks later. The Princess Rooney will be a homecoming of sorts for Dubai Majesty, who began her career in south Florida with trainer Joe Calascibetta. She was turned over to Bret Calhoun after being purchased privately following her second-place finish in the Grade 3 Azalea on the 2008 Summit of Speed card.
Marina Ballerina is undefeated in three starts over the Calder strip, a streak that includes victories earlier this meet in the Cool Air and U Can Do It Handicap. She could try to steal the race under jockey Jose Lezcano.
Keep the Peace, who has been graded stakes placed on five occasions but has yet to win a graded race, was placed second via disqualification in the Winning Colors. She also finished third behind Game Face in the Inside Information.
Trainer Marty Wolfson will send out the uncoupled trio of Jessica Is Back, B R's Girl, and Pious Ashley in the Rooney. Jessica Is Back and B R's Girl finished second and third behind Marina Ballerina in the U Can Do It, while Pious Ashley owns a two-race win streak that includes a victory in Lone Star's Valid Expectations.
Azalea: Underground steps up
While trainer Bob Baffert will not run Indian Blessing on the Summit of Speed card, he does have a big chance to win two of the other stakes, with Underground in the Grade 3, $200,000 Azalea and Wall Street Wonder in the Grade 2, $200,000 Carry Back.
Underground turned in a sensational performance in her only start, winning a maiden special weight race by four lengths while earning a 101 Beyer Speed Figure at Hollywood Park on May 16.
"Her maiden race was spectacular," Baffert said from California. "I could have run her back out here in an allowance race, but I thought the Azalea came up perfect for her and will let us learn a lot more about her."
Underground will face a field that includes Fist Passage, Going to the Sun, and Donttellmewhattodo, the first three finishers in the Leave Me Alone Stakes here four weeks earlier. First Passage, Donttellmewhattodo, and Royal Card will all be saddled by trainer Marty Wolfson, while Michelle Lovell sends out the uncoupled pair of Going to the Sun and Time Well Spent.
Kays and Jays, who joined Underground on the flight from California, also figures part of the early pace while turning back to six furlongs off a seventh-place finish going 1 1/16 miles in the Grade 2 Hollywood Oaks.
Carry Back: 'Wall Street' tries dirt
A competitive field of six 3-year-olds signed on for the six-furlong Carry Back, with Wall Street Wonder to be joined by fellow California shipper Truest Legend, Maryland invaders Ask Joe and Not for Silver, and locally based You Luckie Mann and Prince Joshua.
You Luckie Mann could go postward the slight favorite on the strength of his half-length triumph here last month in the Unbridled Stakes as well as second-place finishes in both the Spectacular Bid and Sunshine Millions Dash this winter at Gulfstream.
Wall Street Wonder has been stakes placed in each of his last three starts but has never competed on dirt.
Ask Joe, who was supplemented at a cost of $4,000, will make just his second start at 3 after winning 3 of 4 tries, including a stakes, at 2.
Truest Legend will likely be the one to catch. He won his last two starts in wire-to-wire fashion, including an entry-level allowance race at Hollywood for which he earned a 99 Beyer.
* Turf sprint specialist Mr. Nightlinger will be heavily favored to win the $150,000 Bob Umphrey Turf Sprint Championship against a field that includes Ron Bob and Dave and former local turf hero Lord Robyn.
* Five undefeated colts, including Witer Wish and D'Funnybone, top a speedy field of 2-year-olds set for the $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial, while its filly counterpart, the $100,000 J J'sdream Stakes, features Phone Marybe, Dreaming Prayers, and Miss Delite.