SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- As a 2-year-old, Indian Blessing was simply too fast for the other members of her generation. She used her blazing speed to register three easy victories and earn an Eclipse Award in the process.
Now 3, Indian Blessing can no longer rely only on her abundant turn of foot to win races - which is why trainer Bob Baffert was delighted when she rallied from off the pace to an easy victory in the Grade 1 Prioress on July 5.
Indian Blessing brings her newfound running style back to Saratoga, where she won her career debut nearly a year ago, as the overwhelming favorite in Saturday's $250,000 Test Stakes. The imposing presence of the Eclipse champion has limited the field for the Grade 1 dash to just six 3-year-old fillies.
"She never finished like that before," Baffert said, referring to Indian Blessing's 5 1/4-length triumph in the Prioress, for which she earned a career-best 110 Beyer Speed Figure. "Last year she just ran them off their feet. But sometimes the older they get, the more they learn to relax. And it's the only way we'll be able to stretch her out again. She needs to relax."
Indian Blessing shortened up to six furlongs in the Prioress after finishing a tiring second behind Zaftig going a mile in the Grade 1 Acorn four weeks earlier. And the turn back in distance may have gone a long way toward helping Indian Blessing sit back and relax off the early leaders that day.
"In the Acorn she broke slow, jumped into the bit, and just took off," said Baffert. "She really wasn't used to sprinting coming into the Prioress, and they just ran away from her leaving the gate. But she settled into a nice stride, and that helped her finish so strong."
John Velazquez, who rode Indian Blessing for the first time in the Prioress, concurred with Baffert.
"She stepped out a little slow, but then I put her in the race and she relaxed pretty easily," said Velazquez. "I assumed that might happen since she'd been running longer and was turning back to a sprint. And it makes such a big difference when you can get a speedy filly like her to relax."
Sweet Hope is the only member of the Test field with the Beyer power to challenge Indian Blessing if she repeats her last performance. Sweet Hope, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, earned a career-best 108 winning an overnight stakes at Delaware Park on June 23. The race marked her first appearance since being sent to trainer Larry Jones in the spring.
Jones said Sweet Hope, who began her career in Europe, was a little lifeless when she first arrived in his barn, but she was full of run right from the outset of the Beautiful Day Stakes, leading at every call and drawing away to an impressive three-length decision.
Palanka City and Tequilas Dayjur have changed barns since their last start.
Palanka City brings a three-race win streak into the Test for her new trainer, Barclay Tagg, while Tequilas Dayjur goes first time for trainer Thomas Moungey after being run down in the closing strides of the Grade 3 Chicago BC Handicap at seven furlongs on June 28.