06/04/2008 11:00PM

Indian Blessing trying new strategy


ELMONT, N.Y. - When it comes to Indian Blessing, trainer Bob Baffert is hoping for the same ending as she's had in most of her races, just with different means.

Indian Blessing, last year's 2-year-old champion filly, returns from a spring freshening in Saturday's Grade 1, $250,000 Acorn Stakes at Belmont where she'll meet four rivals in the one-mile race.

Indian Blessing used her blazing speed to win the first five races of her career, including the Grade 1 Frizette here and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at Monmouth Park. She suffered her first defeat when finishing second to Proud Spell in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks on March 8. That result basically ruled Indian Blessing out of consideration for the Kentucky Oaks, a race that Proud Spell won.

Following the Fair Grounds Oaks, Baffert sent Indian Blessing back to California for a brief respite. She returned to the work tab on April 4 and shows nine workouts, all conducted over the synthetic surface at Santa Anita.

"I think the freshening really helped her and she looks great," Baffert said.

In an attempt to slow her down early on, Baffert is removing the blinkers from Indian Blessing's equipment for the Acorn. Baffert said he had wanted to take the blinkers off sooner, but didn't because Indian Blessing kept on winning.

"I'm trying to shut that motor down early in the race," Baffert said. "Pace is so important with her. She's a sweetheart around the barn. When she comes out of the gate, she wants pedal to the metal. I'm hoping she can relax a little bit."

There is one other speed horse in the Acorn, that being the New York-bred Dance Gal Dance, who won her first four races before getting beaten 9 1/4 lengths by Northern Netti in the Bouwerie Stakes here last month.

Last year, trainer Todd Pletcher knocked off heavily favored Dream Rush in the Acorn with Cotton Blossom. Saturday, he will try to knock off Indian Blessing with Game Face, who is coming off a gritty neck victory over Keep the Peace in the Grade 3 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs on Derby Day.

Prior to that race, Game Face finished second to Bsharpsonata in the Grade 2 Davona Dale at Gulfstream, a race in which she drifted out badly.

"She ran hard despite that, but it definitely compromised her chances of winning the race," Pletcher said. "We were never able to identify a physical reason for her doing that."

Following the La Troienne, Game Face could have stayed at Churchill for the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes, but Pletcher has been so impressed with the way she has gone since the La Troienne that he wanted to go for the Grade 1.

"I think she's actually come on a bit from it," Pletcher said.

Zaftig bounced back from a fourth-place finish in the Comely Stakes at Aqueduct to win the Grade 3 Nassau County here May 3. Around the turn, Zaftig appeared to be going backward, but when J Z Warrior came to her outside, Zaftig picked up the bit again and closed smartly.

"She did that in her maiden win at Gulfstream, too," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "She seems to drop back on the turn; she seems to lose her momentum. When she straightens away and switches [leads], she seems to take off again."

Golden Doc A, winner of the Grade 1 Las Virgenes in February, completes the field.