02/07/2008 12:00AM

Indian Blessing gets distance test


NEW ORLEANS - Bob Baffert knows a thing or two about shipping 3-year-old fillies to New Orleans. He knows enough that they've named Saturday's Grade 3 stakes the Silverbulletday after the filly he brought to town in 1999 to win the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Although named for his former talent, the $200,000 Silverbulletday, one of six stakes on Saturday's card, is no sure thing for his current protege, Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing. The race is shaping up as a rematch of the top two finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, with runner-up Proud Spell waiting at Fair Grounds for Indian Blessing.

Although Indian Blessing won the Breeders' Cup at this same distance, 1 1/16 miles, Baffert still has questions about her ability around two turns.

"Nobody is totally convinced about her distance limitations," said Baffert. "I'd like to figure it out as quickly as possible."

Indian Blessing arrives unbeaten, a perfect 4 for 4. She was finally challenged last time out as she held on to win the Grade 2 Santa Ynez Stakes by a head at Santa Anita. She set a track record for seven furlongs in that race.

"She went extremely fast and got tired," Baffert said. "She went the first four furlongs in 43 and three-fifths."

With several other speed horses in the Silverbulletday's field of seven, including Delta Downs shipper Miss Missile and Tiffany Lass winner Jolie the Cat, there is the distinct possibility that Indian Blessing will be drawn into a speed duel.

That scenario bodes well for Proud Spell, who finished 3 1/2 lengths in back of Indian Blessing in the Breeders' Cup. In that effort, Indian Blessing was left alone up front on a sloppy track and was able to relax on the lead.

"I think we may be able to sit in the rocking-chair seat," said trainer Larry Jones, referring to the possibility of being able to stalk the leaders.

Proud Spell also has the advantage of training over the track, having arrived at Fair Grounds in mid-December. She has turned in six works over the local surface.

"I keep running into the fastest horse in the country," Jones said. "But I'm sure not going to dodge her. Hey, I was here first."