09/19/2008 11:00PM

Indian Blessing showing a mature attitude


ELMONT, N.Y. - When Bob Baffert decided to leave Indian Blessing in New York with John and Tonja Terranova this summer, his main charge to them was to try and get the speedy filly to relax.

Between the Terranovas, exercise rider Simon Harris, and jockey John Velazquez, the lessons went swimmingly, as Indian Blessing did indeed show the ability to sit off horses in winning the Grade 1 Prioress and Grade 1 Test. Baffert hopes the education continues Saturday at Belmont Park when Indian Blessing runs in the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at 6 1/2 furlongs. The Gallant Bloom will be Indian Blessing's final prep before she most likely runs in the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 24.

Indian Blessing, last year's juvenile filly champion, has been stabled in New York since the beginning of June. She was not able to relax in the Acorn, where she set strong fractions before being run down by Zaftig, just her second career loss. But in the Prioress and Test, Indian Blessing saved her speed for the last part of the race.

"Bob wanted to see if we could get her to settle down a little bit in her works," Tonja Terranova said. "Simon's done a really good job getting her to relax going off. With Johnny on her she's been rating very kind in her races, and it's kind of given her a new dimension. She's matured, and I think she really seems to like New York."

With Velazquez committed to ride Commentator in Saturday's $500,000 Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs, Corey Nakatani will ride Indian Blessing and will have to work out a trip from the rail.

Four fillies were entered against Indian Blessing, though trainer Bobby Frankel said he's not 100 percent committed to running Sugar Swirl, who could run in the Thoroughbred Club of America at Keeneland on Oct. 4.

Zada Belle has done her best running on the front end, and Elope has enough speed to be forwardly placed as well. Zada Belle won a Monmouth allowance and a Saratoga overnight stakes in front-running fashion.

Rick Mettee, who oversees Godolphin Racing's New York string, said Zada Belle "should be a little bit more battle-tested than she was the last couple of times she went up against good fillies. We'll see how she stacks up against a top-class filly like Indian Blessing."

Porte Bonheur won two stakes at Saratoga. Elope is 2 for 2 in her career and makes her stakes debut for trainer Bruce Levine.