10/28/2007 11:00PM

Baffert thankful for Indian Blessing

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - Less than 48 hours after winning two Breeders' Cup races, including the Juvenile Fillies with Indian Blessing, trainer Bob Baffert was back in California, letting success sink in.

"You learn to appreciate these wins a lot more after you've had the dry spell I had," Baffert said Monday morning. "My wife [Jill] told me that when I was doing good I'd gotten to the point that I wasn't even rooting for my horses, that we'd just win and that would be it. But this is great. It's taken so long since I'd been back in the spotlight that I've really learned to appreciate these wins more - a lot more."

Baffert, who had been 3 for 44 in the Breeders' Cup before Saturday, won the Juvenile Fillies with Indian Blessing and the Sprint with Midnight Lute. Indian Blessing, with Garrett Gomez aboard, stayed unbeaten when running 12 other 2-year-old fillies off their feet in a wire-to-wire victory in the 24th running of the race.

Indian Blessing began to shake loose from A to the Croft, the only filly willing to take an early shot at her, as the field left the backstretch in the 1 1/16-mile race. On the far turn, after steadily edging farther in front, Indian Blessing put on a final spurt that put the race away. She held a six-length lead at the eighth pole and had 3 1/2 lengths on the runner-up, Proud Spell, at the wire.

Indian Blessing, an Indian Charlie filly bred and owned by Hal Earnhardt, returned $5.40 as the favorite, timed in 1:44.73 over a sloppy track. Proud Spell, a 9-1 shot, had a half-length on Backseat Rhythm, a 19-1 shot. Then came Tasha's Miracle, Smarty Deb, Clearly Foxy, Grace Anatomy, Zee Zee, A to the Croft, Izarra, Set Play, Irish Smoke, and Phantom Income.

Indian Blessing returned to California on Sunday and came out of the race in good shape, Baffert said Monday.

"I really don't have anything planned for her," he said. "We haven't really talked about it or figured out a schedule. She ran pretty hard in those races back East, and after they run over an off track like that, I take my time with them. She'll probably stay in training, but I'm just going to freshen her. She won't run for a while, that's for sure."

Baffert said targeting the Kentucky Oaks next May for the filly "is too far away" and that he wants to enjoy what happened Saturday. Baffert experienced major success in racing in the late 1990s and earlier this decade but not nearly as much in the last few years.

"When you're as spoiled as I was, when it finally happens again, it makes you think that from here on out you're really going to be able to appreciate how exciting it is to win these races," he said.

Indian Blessing surely clinched a divisional Eclipse Award with her victory. The Juvenile Fillies makes her 3 for 3, with easy wins in a Saratoga maiden race and the Grade 1 Frizette coming before the Juvenile Fillies.

Indian Blessing broke sharply from post 4 to make the lead into the first turn. Surprisingly, A to the Croft, a runner-up in three graded stakes going into the race, showed newfound speed, but her early efforts clearly wound up costing her. After the devastating burst leaving the quarter pole, Indian Blessing went unchallenged.

"She left the gate really good for us," said Gomez. "The idea wasn't to be on the lead, but I found myself there."

For Earnhardt, one of Baffert's first clients, the victory was "special all the way around. I'm a hands-off owner. I owe it all to Bobby."

The total value of the Juvenile Fillies was $1,832,000, with the winner earning $1,080,000.

Meanwhile, trainer Larry Jones said Proud Spell would be sent to owner Brereton Jones's Airdrie Stud in Kentucky later this week for a freshening of 30 to 45 days before she rejoins the stable at Fair Grounds.

Trainer Doug O'Neill said Grace Anatomy, the seventh-place finisher, may race next in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 15 after the filly returned to California no worse for wear.

Cry and Catch Me, also trained by Baffert and scratched Thursday from the Juvenile Fillies after coming down with a fever, stayed behind at Monmouth as a precaution.

"She'll be back here in a week or so," said Baffert. "She's fine. We'll just take it easy with her until it's time to start back up with her."