09/22/2009 11:00PM

Indian Blessing out to exit with a flourish

Barbara D. Livingston
Indian Blessing, here working at Saratoga under Simon Harris last month, will go for a repeat victory in Saturday's Gallant Bloom.

ELMONT, N.Y. - From New York to Southern California, New Jersey to Dubai, Indian Blessing has taken her connections on a magical world tour over the last two years. Along the way, Indian Blessing has won eight stakes - five Grade 1's - and accumulated two Eclipse Awards.

But all good things do come to an end. Indian Blessing's brilliant career is likely to end after two more races. The first is Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park, a race Indian Blessing won last year by 6 1/4 lengths. If she repeats that effort, Indian Blessing will make a return trip to the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita, a race in which she finished second to Ventura last year.

"She owes us nothing," Hal Earnhardt, who bred and owns Indian Blessing with his wife, Patti, said earlier this week by phone from his home in Arizona. "Of course we love to race more than anything but I think [retirement] is the way Bobby sees things. We're getting to the end of a great run."

Bobby is Bob Baffert, the recently minted Hall of Fame trainer who counts the Earnhardts among his longest-tenured clients, going back to his Quarter Horse days. Baffert and the Earnhardts have enjoyed great success with the likes of Indian Charlie, Behaving Badly, and El Corredor.

Baffert likens Indian Blessing to Silverbulletday, a filly he trained for another longtime client, Mike Pegram. Silverbulletday, like Indian Blessing, won Eclipse Awards at age 2 and 3.

"She showed greatness right off the bat. The really good ones do," Baffert said of Indian Blessing. "I compare her to Silverbulletday - great fillies that keep getting it done. The way she broke her maiden, then I ran her going a mile [in Frizette], then jumps right into the Breeders' Cup and wins that easy. You have to be great to do that."

Indian Blessing had a terrific 3-year-old campaign that included wins in the Grade 1 Prioress and Grade 1 Test that helped her earn the honor as champion female sprinter, a category first started in 2007.

Indian Blessing is winless, however, in three starts this year, albeit one of those came against males in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March, in which she finished second. She broke a step slowly that day, raced along the outside rail for most of the race, and while she had dead aim on Big City Man, she couldn't run him down, falling 1 1/4 lengths short.

Baffert was considering wheeling Indian Blessing back in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, but didn't feel the filly was doing well enough to put forth a top effort. She eventually returned in the Desert Stormer at Hollywood Park on June 14, where she finished fourth of seven, as the 1-2 favorite. Indian Blessing came out of that race with myriad issues, including a leg infection that required her to be treated with antibiotics. Fearful the medication may not have been out of her system, Baffert had to scratch Indian Blessing out of the Princess Rooney at Calder in July.

Shortly thereafter, Indian Blessing was shipped to New York, but upon her arrival a couple of abscesses were diagnosed in her feet. Indian Blessing basically didn't train for two weeks and went four weeks between workouts. Thus, she went into the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga a bit short and was no match for Music Note, who romped to a 5 1/4-length victory over Indian Blessing in the slop.

"We lost that time with her, she got a little tired," said Baffert, who entrusts his filly to the husband-and-wife team of John and Tonja Terranova in New York. "She's getting back to her old form. The Gallant Bloom is going to be her coming-out race. They're going to see the old Indian Blessing."

The old Indian Blessing has brought Earnhardt some special moments, none more so than when she won the Grade 1 Test at Saratoga by seven lengths.

"My family was there, my kids went, my granddaughter. We made it a whole family affair," Earnhardt said. "She ran off the screen that day. Being at Saratoga and the way she ran was one of the defining moments we've had with her."

Earnhardt said that when she is retired, Indian Blessing will reside at John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington, Ky., where Earnhardt's Grade 1-winning colt El Corredor stands. Earnhardt did not know to whom Indian Blessing will be bred.

What Earnhardt does know is that it will be tough not to have Indian Blessing to watch race next year.

"It will definitely be tough," he said. What we can hope for is that we got something else to follow. My house is a shrine right now to her. My wife had to change up our whole room. We've been fortunate in this sport, but no doubt she's at the top of the charts."

Bulldogger can continue the run

While it will be sad for the Earnhardts to say goodbye to Indian Blessing, they have their potential next "big horse" in Bulldogger. A 2-year-old son of Dixie Union, Bulldogger won a maiden race at Saratoga by 6 1/2 lengths on Travers Day, Aug. 29. He ran six furlongs in 1:10.70 in the slop and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90.

Bulldogger was being pointed for the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont on Oct. 10, but the horse has developed a minor shin issue that will force him to miss some time. Bulldogger was expected to ship back to Baffert's Southern California barn as early as next week and will be pointed to a 3-year-old campaign, though he could make another start at 2.

"We've always really liked him, Bobby just loves him," Earnhardt said. "We got to look down the road. I'd love to put the foot on the pedal and come back in the Champagne, but if it's not right, then I don't want to run him."