09/02/2008 11:00PM

Indian Blessing tries routing


ELMONT, N.Y. - Having demonstrated the ability to relax successfully in two Grade 1 sprint victories this summer, Indian Blessing will stretch out in distance Saturday when she heads a field of nine entered in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ruffian Handicap at Belmont Park.

The Ruffian, for 3-year-olds and up at 1 1/16 miles, heads a 10-race card that also includes the Grade 1 Garden City Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on the turf.

Indian Blessing, last year's 2-year-old filly champion, relaxed in the early stages of her victories in the six-furlong Prioress at Belmont and seven-furlong Test at Saratoga. With no Grade 1 sprint to run in between now and the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita on Oct. 24, trainer Bob Baffert thought the Ruffian - a one-turn race - the best alternative.

"It's a Grade 1, it's an important race, there's really nothing sprinting where I could run her other than the Gallant Bloom," Baffert said referring to the Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom here on Sept. 20. "Right now, she seems to be relaxing more, so this is good to see if she could do it [going longer]. If she can't, she can't."

Baffert is also running the 4-year-old Tough Tiz's Sis, a Grade 1 winner last year, who in her last two starts has chased distaff division leader Zenyatta. Tough Tiz's Sis was third behind Lear's Princess and Rags to Riches in last year's Grade 1 Gazelle here.

Little Belle, who won the Ashland, was entered and is part of a Sheikh Mohammed Godolphin Racing/Darley Stable entry along with Stage Luck. Rite Moment, Copper State, Spring Waltz, Boca Grande, and Miraculous Miss complete the field.

Pure Clan returns in Garden City

Pure Clan, whose 4-for 4-record on the turf includes a victory in the Grade 1 American Oaks last out at Hollywood Park, returns from a brief freshening in the Grade 1, $250,000 Garden City at 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Pure Clan will be coupled in the wagering with Ariege, winner of Santa Anita Oaks, as both are owned in part by the International Equine Acquisitions Holdings Stable. Pure Clan, trained by Bob Holthus, overcame some trouble to win the American Oaks and then was scheduled to ship back to Southern California for the Del Mar Oaks. But those plans were scrapped in favor of waiting for this.

"It's been so hot here, we just decided to give her a little more time and wait and run there," Holthus said from Louisville, Ky., where Pure Clan spent the summer.

Julien Leparoux rides from post 5.

Ariege, trained by Bobby Frankel, came off knee surgery to win the Madame Jumel Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 9. Prior to that, Ariege won the Grade 2 Beaumont and Grade 1 Santa Anita Oaks on synthetic surfaces. Alan Garcia rides from post 7.

My Princess Jess, winner of the Grade 3 Lake George at Saratoga, and Backseat Rhythm, winner of the Grade 2 Lake Placid at Saratoga, head the list of challengers to the IEAH duo. Also entered are Satan's Circus, second to Pure Clan in the Hollywood Oaks; Raw Silk, winner of the Grade 2 Sands Point here in May; Alwajeeha; and Shaker, the only European import in the field.

The Garden City was carded as the third race on Saturday (2:02 p.m. post), in hopes of beating forecasted showers associated with the remnants of Hurricane Gustav.