06/13/2009 11:00PM

Desert Stormer a surface test for Indian Blessing


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - What is she doing here?

Indian Blessing goes slumming Sunday in the $70,000 Desert Stormer Handicap at Hollywood Park, a six-furlong sprint that is a curious spot for a filly accustomed to running in Grade 1 or million-dollar races.

"I want to see how she handles that track," trainer Bob Baffert said.

Indian Blessing will be racing for the first time on Cushion Track; she worked five times on the surface in late 2007 and early 2008, and fired a bullet six furlongs last year in 1:10.

Eight fillies and mares entered the Desert Stormer, which will be the first start for Indian Blessing since finishing second against males March 28 in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai.

"She's coming back off Dubai, and you don't know how they're going to come back from Dubai until you run them," Baffert said.

Indian Blessing has worked well at Santa Anita, and Baffert said he believes she is better than she was in late April at Churchill Downs.

"She got there, and she just didn't act right," Baffert said.

He skipped the Churchill meet, brought Indian Blessing back to Santa Anita, and she came around.

"She looks good," Baffert said. "She's going to run well."

The Desert Stormer might be a prep for the Grade 2, seven-furlong A Gleam on July 18, but Baffert and owners Hal and Patti Earnhardt will wait and see.

"I want to see what she does, how she handles it, and how she comes back," Baffert said. "Nothing is for sure."

Well, one thing is certain. With 9 wins and earnings of more than $2.8 million from 13 starts, Indian Blessing has earned every bit of her 124-pound top weight. Victor Espinoza rides her for the first time.

Other starters include Coco Belle, whose speed makes her a threat. Her last-start win on May 7 was her first in nine months.

"She's been in some very fast-paced races," trainer John Sadler said. "She's better when she gets an easy lead, and this track plays a lot quicker" than other California synthetic tracks. Mike Smith rides Coco Belle.