09/10/2008 11:00PM

Indian Blessing could challenge boys

Barbara D. Livingston
Indian Blessing, here training at Saratoga under John Velazquez, could face males in the Vosburgh or stick with fillies in the Gallant Bloom.

ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Bob Baffert continues to weigh his options with his champion filly Indian Blessing, including a possible start against the boys in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 27.

Though the more likely option for Indian Blessing is the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap against females here Sept. 20, Baffert on Wednesday opened the door a crack to running against the boys.

“Right now, she’s doing great, I want to keep her fit and fresh and watch the sprint division real close,” Baffert said Wednesday from the horse sales at Keeneland.

When asked if that meant the male sprint division, Baffert said, “Yeah. I just want to keep my options open. The Gallant Bloom is an option; so is the Vosburgh.”

One option not on the table anymore is Saturday’s $400,000 Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes run over the Tapeta surface at Presque Isle. Baffert, who scratched Indian Blessing out of last Saturday’s Grade 1 Ruffian here, said he doesn’t want to subject Indian Blessing to a long van ride. Baffert also said that Hal Earnhardt, owner of Indian Blessing, is not a big fan of synthetic surfaces.

“She loves Belmont,” Baffert said. “I wish the Breeders’ Cup was at Belmont.”

Indian Blessing, who has two wins and a second from three Belmont Park starts, worked five furlongs in 58.17 seconds Monday morning over Belmont’s main track. It was the fastest of 34 moves at the distance.

Fabulous Strike, Bustin Stones target Vosburgh

Baffert may be less inclined to run Indian Blessing in the Vosburgh if Fabulous Strike and Bustin Stones both show up as their connections are planning.

Fabulous Strike and Bustin Stones were forced to miss the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Stakes at Saratoga on July 26 due to foot issues, but both are now healthy and targeting the Vosburgh.

Fabulous Strike, who won the Vosburgh last year, returned to the work tab Sunday, working five furlongs in 1:02 over the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs. It was his first breeze since he ripped off a piece of his frog, the shock-absorbing part of the bottom of his left front foot, a few days before the Vanderbilt.

Trainer Todd Beattie said he twice tried returning Fabulous Strike to training only to have to stop on him because he irritated that part of the foot. Beattie took Fabulous Strike out of Penn National and shipped him to Presque Isle Downs, where he trained prior to winning last year’s Vosburgh.

“If I had it to do all over again, I would have taken him off that track sooner,” Beattie said. “He’s doing good now; that’s where I trained him when I went to the Vosburgh last year. He likes that track.”

Beattie plans to work Fabulous Strike the next two Sundays before shipping to Belmont.

Meanwhile, Bustin Stones has had two breezes – only one that was officially recorded – since resuming training following a bruised foot that knocked him out of the Vanderbilt. Bustin Stones, who has not run since winning the Grade 1 Carter in April, will work this weekend, and the Vosburgh remains the target.

Heavenly Vision to Matron

Baffert will look to improve on his 3-for-4 start at the meet when he sends out Heavenly Vision in Saturday’s Grade 2, $250,000 Matron Stakes for juvenile fillies at seven furlongs.

Heavenly Vision, a daughter of Forestry, won her debut by 4 1/4 lengths at Saratoga on Aug.?24, running six furlongs in 1:10.82 and earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 81.

“I was pretty impressed,” Baffert said. “I liked the way she sat. She showed me a lot before we got to Del Mar, then she wasn’t as effective at Del Mar when she got there, so we got her out of there. I think she’ll run well.”

A field of eight is expected for the Matron, including Argyle Pink, Miss Ocean City, Obsequious, On the Menu, Persistently, Saintly Rose, and possibly Holiday Girl and Juliet’s Spirit.

Classic Neel supplements to Damsel

To say that Rick Violette wasn’t happy with the ride Carlos Marquez gave Classic Neel in an allowance race last month at Monmouth Park would be an understatement.

Making his first start since last year, Classic Neel was checked from between horses before clipping heels with the eventual winner and stumbling when she tried to get moving again. Still, Classic Neel was only beaten 2 1/2 lengths in the race.

“I called the stewards and told them to give my jock days for stupidity,” Violette said.

Violette felt that Marquez could have avoided clipping heels had he kept Classic Neel moving forward as opposed to steadying the horse nearing the far turn.

“He checks into the heels of the eventual winner and she’s taken out of the race,” Violette said. “If he goes forward, nothing happens.”

Violette opted to supplement Classic Neel to Saturday’s Grade 2, $100,000 Noble Damsel Stakes scheduled for one mile on the Widener turf course.

As a 3-year-old, when in the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin, Classic Neel won an overnight stakes at Saratoga and finished a close third behind dead-heat winners Rutherienne and Bit of Whimsy in the Grade 3 Sands Point Stakes at Belmont.

Classic Neel will face a field that includes Criminologist, Nans Joy, Trouble Maker, Waquoit’s Love, Say You Will, and Sefroua.

Backseat Rhythm to Queen Elizabeth

Backseat Rhythm, winner of Saturday’s Grade 1 Garden City, will remain with 3-year-olds for her next start and run in the Grade 1, $500,000 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland on Oct. 11, trainer Pat Reynolds said.

“Common sense says you gotta go with straight 3-year-olds,” Reynolds said. “God helps us if there’s a strong pace scenario, she’s liable to look like Whirlaway.”

Backseat Rhythm, who finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on dirt, has found a home on turf, where she has won 4 of 6 starts overall, including the Grade 2 Lake Placid.

Reynolds said running in the Queen Elizabeth most likely will preclude Backseat Rhythm from running in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf at Santa Anita on Oct. 24.