03/10/2008 11:00PM

Indian Blessing taking a break


ARCADIA, Calif. - Indian Blessing used raw speed to win five consecutive races including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. But her odds-on defeat racing two turns last weekend at Fair Grounds revealed distance limitations, and trainer Bob Baffert confirmed Tuesday that the champion 2-year-old filly of 2007 will skip the Kentucky Oaks and return for a summer-fall campaign in shorter races.

"I wasn't convinced [she wanted to run long]," Baffert said. "She's quiet, but when that gate comes open, she grabs that bit and goes. I'm going to freshen her up for summer and fall."

Indian Blessing was scheduled to return Tuesday to Santa Anita, after her first career defeat Saturday in the Grade 2, 1o1/16-mile Fair Grounds Oaks.

"Garrett [Gomez] tried to get her to slow down, but she didn't have that kick," Baffert said. "I had to decide - do I want to run her a mile and one-eighth [in the Kentucky Oaks] and let her rip around there? She'll probably run in New York. I'll let her tell me when she's ready."

Indian Blessing has earned $1,647,200 for owner-breeders Hal and Patti Earnhardt. Baffert said the long-range goal for Indian Blessing is the BC Filly and Mare Sprint.

Meanwhile, a 2-year-old half-brother to Indian Blessing has commenced early training with Baffert at Santa Anita. Sired by Pacific Classic winner Candy Ride, Baffert said the juvenile colt is unnamed.

"I might name him Client No. 9," he said.

Nashoba's Key, Smarty Deb eye BC

It was a coincidence at the 2007 Breeders' Cup when two undefeated fillies with female West Coast trainers - Nashoba's Key and Smarty Deb - shipped to Monmouth Park and lost for the first time. Nashoba's Key ran fourth in the BC Filly and Mare Turf; Emerald Downs sensation Smarty Deb finished fifth in the BC Juvenile Fillies.

Nashoba's Key and Smarty Deb hope to try again when the 2008 BC is run this fall at Santa Anita. And this year, the fillies will run in their own back yard. Carla Gaines still trains Nashoba's Key, who won the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap Sunday. She also is the new trainer for Smarty Deb, who made her first five starts for Doris Harwood.

"They wanted to bring her down and race her in Southern California," Gaines said, referring to owner-breeder Northwest Farms.

Smarty Deb has been stabled at Santa Anita for six weeks, but has not breezed because she became sick when a virus swept through Gaines's stable. Smarty Deb won 4 of 5 starts last year, including a three-length score against males in the Gottstein Futurity at Emerald. Smarty Deb was injured finishing fifth in the Breeders' Cup, had a bone chip removed, and will make her first start as a 3-year-old during the spring-summer meet at Hollywood Park.

As for Nashoba's Key, it is a long time until late October, yet that is the only date set in stone for her. The 5-year-old mare returned to form Sunday in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita Handicap, scoring by 4 1/2 lengths to re-establish herself as the top main-track female in California. So what's next?

"I really don't know," Gaines said Tuesday, "I don't have [an immediate] target in mind. The ultimate goal is the Breeders' Cup."

That is Oct. 24 at Santa Anita, and Gaines and owner Warren Williamson will choose between the $2 million Filly and Mare Turf at 1o3/8 miles, and the $2 million Ladies Classic at 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

"She seems to be such a synthetic-track specialist," Gaines said, suggesting that the Ladies Classic would be the first choice for Nashoba's Key, who is 4 for 4 on synthetic. Santa Anita has not announced what surface will be installed after the winter meet ends. Nashoba's Key has won 4 of 6 on turf.

"If they put in dirt, I'll run her on grass," Gaines said.

Nashoba's Key earned a 97 Beyer Speed Figure winning the Santa Margarita under Gomez. She is 8 for 10 overall.

Ariege's next is not yet decided

The bias-aided win by Ariege on Saturday in the Santa Anita Oaks - she won by a half-length over Golden Doc A - catapulted the filly onto the national stage, leaving trainer Bobby Frankel with a potential conflict at Keeneland on April 5. That is the date Frankel already circled for Grade 1 winner Country Star, the 2-for-3 filly aiming for the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes. The win by Ariege earned an ordinary 87 Beyer Figure, over a closer-friendly synthetic surface that played similarly to Keeneland's.

Frankel did not commit to a race for Ariege, whose first five starts were on grass.

"I have to talk to the owners and see what they want to do [with Ariege]," he said.

As for Santa Anita Oaks pacesetter Lovely Isle, she was compromised by the bias.

"She'll go back East," Frankel said. "It was the worst track for her."

* Nikki'sgoldensteed, whose shadow-jumping antics may have cost him the victory Saturday in the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows, will train at Santa Anita before running next on April 5 in the Grade 2 Illinois Derby at Hawthorne. Nikki'sgoldensteed finished second in the El Camino, jumping shadows repeatedly during the race.

* Medjool, who dusted maidens by 4 1/2 lengths Feb. 18 at Santa Anita, worked six furlongs Tuesday morning and is headed to Turfway Park for the Grade 2 Lane's End Stakes on March 22, according to trainer David Hofmans. Hofmans also said Coast Guard "did not handle the track at all" when he finished eighth as the favorite in the El Camino Real.