02/09/2008 12:00AM

Indian Blessing stays perfect

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NEW ORLEANS - Indian Blessing passed her distance test in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Silverbulletday, but not by much.

She had won at the distance before, in the slop at Monmouth Park in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, but this was the Fair Grounds, a course with a long stretch that does not favor speed - and they still couldn't catch her.

She ran her record to a perfect 5 for 5, including four graded stakes victories.

Indian Blessing ran her usual race, going fast early, and then holding on by a length to defeat the hard-closing Proud Spell, who also finished second to Indian Blessing in the Breeders' Cup. It was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Highest Class, who was closing fast.

"I like what I saw today," said Bob Baffert, trainer of Indian Blessing. "She's fast, and she wants to get it on, but she'll learn from this race."

Indian Blessing was second around the first turn to the ultra speedy Miss Missile, but did not get dragged into a speed duel, going the first half-mile in 47.14 seconds. She drew clear nearing the second turn, opening up a four-length lead in the stretch.

"She's learning about two turns," Baffert said.

"No more 43-second half-miles," he said, referring to the blistering pace she set in her narrow victory in the Santa Ynez last time out.

Regular jockey Garrett Gomez paced Indian Blessing and thought the race was a step forward in her campaign to get to longer races.

"She relaxed fairly nicely," Gomez said. "But she was getting tired. When I hit the sixteenth pole, I was wishing it was the finish line."

Indian Blessing earned $120,000 for her owners, Patti and Hal Earnhardt III, and paid $3.40 to win.

Larry Jones, trainer of Proud Spell, also saw the race as a step forward for his filly.

"We've closed a couple of lengths since the Breeders' Cup," Jones said. "We're sitting good and don't want to trade positions with anyone."

Though Indian Blessing took the Silverbulletday, the finish boded well for both Proud Spell and Highest Class.

"As they keep stretching the races out, it will be better for us," Jones said.