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Indian Blessing back in the winner's circle

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.


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