Indian Blessing rewarded her connections’ confidence Saturday afternoon at Belmont Park, dueling with Sara Louise down to the wire to win the 16th running of the Grade 2, $156,500 Gallant Bloom. Notching her first victory of the year, the 4-year-old filly also earned an automatic berth in the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint on November 6 at Santa Anita through the “Win and You’re In” challenge series.
After breaking a half-step slowly, the two-time Eclipse-award winning daughter of Indian Charlie recovered quickly and raced behind early leaders Any Limit and Thunders Dove before splitting horses to take the lead at the five-sixteenths pole. Challenged by 3-year-old Sara Louise in the stretch, Indian Blessing fought back relentlessly and prevailed by a head at the wire to win the Gallant Bloom for the second straight year.
Her final time for the 6½ furlongs was 1:15.29.
“She put up a really good fight today,” said winning jockey John Velazquez. “She didn’t leave [the gate] all that well, and I had to use her a little bit to get position. I let her be comfortable, and wait. When the hole opened up, I took the spot, and went on with her. I tell you, [Sara Louise] was a brave one, too. The more I asked my filly, the more the other one kept coming back. It was a good effort for both fillies.”
Sent off as the 1.40-1 second choice and the 123-pound highweight in the field of six, Indian Blessing returned $4.80 for a $2 win bet to her backers in the crowd of 5,879. She earned $93,900 for the win, pushing her lifetime earnings to the brink of the $3 million mark at $2,995,020.
“I think she ran incredibly today,” said Tonja Terranova, assistant to winning Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. “Sara Louise is a really nice filly, but [Indian Blessing] had been training super. Everyone was really confident and she ran her eyeballs out. Bob [Baffert] and Hal [Earnhardt, owner] will have to discuss [the possibility of the Breeders’ Cup]. I’m not sure what will transpire, I’m just savoring the moment.”
Indian Blessing used her win in last year’s Gallant Bloom to launch a bid in the Filly & Mare Sprint, in which she finished second behind Ventura.
Sara Louise, who was the slight favorite at odds of 1.35-1, finished 3½ lengths in front of Sky Haven who was third. Thunders Dove, P.S.U. Grad and Any Limit completed the order of finish. American Queen was scratched.