10/26/2007 11:00PM

Indian Blessing revives that old Baffert magic

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. - Indian Blessing put trainer Bob Baffert back in the international racing spotlight by staying unbeaten when running 12 other 2-year-old fillies off their feet in a wire-to-wire victory Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

With Garrett Gomez aboard, Indian Blessing began to shake loose from the only filly willing to take an early shot at her, A to the Croft, as the field left the backstretch in the 1 1/16-mile race. On the far turn, after steadily edging farther in front, Indian Blessing put on a final spurt that put the race away. She held a six-length lead at the eighth pole and had 3 1/2 lengths on the runner-up, Proud Spell, at the wire.

Indian Blessing, an Indian Charlie filly bred and owned by Hal Earnhardt, returned $5.40 as the favorite after finishing in 1:44.73 over a sloppy track. Proud Spell, a 9-1 shot, had a half-length on Backseat Rhythm, a 19-1 shot. Then came Tasha's Miracle, Smarty Deb, Clearly Foxy, Grace Anatomy, Zee Zee, A to the Croft, Izarra, Set Play, Irish Smoke, and Phantom Income.

For Baffert, who had won with just 3 of his previous 44 Breeders' Cup starters, the victory meant a return to the spotlight, which had frequently found him in the late 1990s and earlier this decade but not nearly as much in the last few years.

"In this business I've learned that you can never look back, you've always got to look forward," said Baffert. "One thing about the Breeders' Cup, these are the best horses in the world. That's what it's all about - and the best filly won today."

Indian Blessing surely clinched a divisional Eclipse Award. The Juvenile Fillies makes her 3 for 3, with easy wins in a Saratoga maiden race and the Grade 1 Frizette coming before the Juvenile Fillies.

Indian Blessing broke sharply from post 4 to make the lead into the first turn. Surprisingly, A to the Croft, a runner-up in three graded stakes going into the race, showed speed, but her early efforts clearly wound up costing her. After the devastating burst leaving the quarter pole, Indian Blessing went unchallenged.

"She left the gate really good for us," said Gomez. "The idea wasn't to be on the lead, but I found myself there."

For Earnhardt, one of Baffert's first clients, the victory was "special all the way around."

"I'm a hands-off owner," he said. "I owe it all to Bobby."

The total value of the Juvenile Fillies was $1,832,000, with the winner earning $1,080,000.

Indian Blessing was 5-2 during most of the wagering before suddenly plunging to 8-5 just minutes before post.