06/13/2009 11:00PM

Coco Belle scores; Indian Blessing fourth

Email
Benoit & Associates
Coco Belle captures the Desert Stormer after turning back Indian Blessing, who will now ship to New York.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Coco Belle held off an early threat from reigning champion female sprinter Indian Blessing to score an upset win in Sunday's $72,800 Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park.

The surprise victory will result in the two females racing on opposite coasts later this summer.

Indian Blessing, who faded to finish fourth in her first race since a second against males in the $2 million Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March, will be part of trainer Bob Baffert's New York division. Indian Blessing's goal for the summer will be the $300,000 Ballerina Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 29, Baffert said.

Coco Belle will be pointed for the $150,000 A Gleam Handicap here on July 18, trainer John Sadler said.

Indian Blessing, making her first career start at Hollywood Park, finished out of the first two positions for the first time in her 14-race career. Jockey Victor Espinoza had Indian Blessing stalking Coco Belle through early fractions of 22.12 and 44.66 seconds. When the field reached the quarter-mile, Espinoza urged Indian Blessing to keep up with Coco Belle, but got little response.

"She was in trouble," Baffert said. "She wasn't getting a hold of [the track] like she usually can.

"Today, it wasn't her. You never know how they'll react after Dubai. Maybe she needs more time. We'll regroup and send her back East. We'll go to New York. I wanted to keep her here if she could handle the track, but it didn't work out."

Owned by breeders Hal and Patti Earnhardt, Indian Blessing won the Grade 1 Test Stakes at Saratoga last summer.

Coco Belle, 5, ran six furlongs in 1:08.35 under jockey Mike Smith, finishing 3 3/4 lengths in front of Silver Swallow. She's Cheeky finished third in the field of seven fillies and mares.

Indian Blessing was sent off at 1-5, and attracted $484,538 of the $522,293 bet to show. As a result of her finishing outside the first three, the show payoffs were massive. Coco Belle paid $18.60 to win and $37.60 to show. Silver Swallow paid $40.60 to show, while She's Cheeky returned $43.60.

Coco Belle, 5, has won 7 of 23 starts and $450,113. The Desert Stormer was her third career stakes win, and first since the CERF Handicap at Del Mar last August. Owned by breeders Jerry and Ann Moss, Coco Belle has won her last two starts, including an allowance race here on May 7.

Sadler had thought he might have an edge against Indian Blessing in Sunday's race.

"The history of horses coming back from Dubai is not good," Sadler said. "My filly is in good form again. I may run her back in the A Gleam."