Indian Blessing looking for renewal

Updated: August 28, 2009, 11:36 PM ET
By Jay Privman | Daily Racing Form



SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- Although he is based in California, trainer Bob Baffert for more than a decade has been regularly sending horses to New York, entrusting them to Tonja Terranova, the wife of New York-based trainer John Terranova. Their working relationship goes back to the days of Silverbulletday, and has continued to Point Given, Forestry, Congaree, El Corredor, and Roman Ruler.

For the third consecutive summer, Baffert has sent the filly Indian Blessing here to Saratoga. Two years ago, Indian Blessing won first time out against maidens. Last summer, she won the Test Stakes. This summer, her goal is Saturday's Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina Stakes.

But while Saratoga has always been kind to Indian Blessing, she comes into this year's race with some questions. She has made just two starts this year, and is winless. Indian Blessing was uncharacteristically dull in the Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park in her last start. Since then, she missed the Princess Rooney at Calder because she was ill.

Terranova, though, said she believes Indian Blessing is ready to return to her best form. Terranova has done everything to try and accomplish that, putting Indian Blessing in the same stall she has occupied in previous summers, and reuniting her with exercise rider Simon Harris.

"She dragged Simon around this morning like her old self," Terranova said Thursday morning at Saratoga. "Simon said she's as good as always."

She will need to be. Even though Indian Blessing, a two-time champion, is the defending Eclipse Award winner as champion female sprinter, there is a new, worthy challenger to the throne. Informed Decision has won five straight races, including three this year, and takes on Indian Blessing for the first time in the Ballerina.

There are four others entered in the seven-furlong Ballerina, including Music Note, who was a sharp second in last year's Alabama Stakes here. But the race should boil down to Indian Blessing vs. Informed Decision.

Indian Blessing "looks absolutely amazing," Terranova said. "We're very confident going in."

Indian Blessing made her first start this year in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, and ran a super race, finishing second after stumbling at the start. Baffert thought about wheeling her back five weeks later at Churchill Downs - where she would have met Informed Decision - but was not satisfied with how she was training, and she was scratched. Baffert then ran Indian Blessing in the Desert Stormer, her first start at Hollywood Park, but she ran out of the money for the first time.

She then got sick, and was treated with antibiotics, which necessitated her being scratched from last month's Princess Rooney at Calder.

After that, Indian Blessing came to Terranova's barn at Belmont Park, then headed up the Northway to Saratoga.

Indian Blessing figures to dash for the lead, but she will have to hold off Informed Decision, who is in the best form of her life. Her win streak has been accomplished on both dirt and synthetic surfaces.

"You've got to run on conventional dirt from time to time in order to get a championship, or else there will be a knock against you," said her trainer, Jonathan Sheppard.

Music Note was a leading 3-year-old filly last year, but in her only start this year, she faded to finish fifth of seven in the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont Park. This will be her first race at less than one mile since her six-furlong debut in October 2007, in which she finished fourth.

Modification was third in the Humana Distaff the last time she ran on dirt.

P.S.U. Grad was third Aug. 9 in the six-furlong Honorable Miss, this track's prep for the Ballerina.

Tar Heel Mom is 2 for 2 at Saratoga, and comes off a runaway win against softer.