09/19/2008 11:00PM

Indian Blessing win eases Baffert's pain


ELMONT, N.Y. - A day that started terribly for trainer Bob Baffert got better in the afternoon as Indian Blessing rolled to a 6 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park.

The victory came several hours after the Baffert-trained Tough Tiz's Sis suffered a career-ending injury during a morning workout here. Tough Tiz's Sis, who won the Grade 1 Ruffian here on Sept. 6, sustained a condylar fracture to her right foreleg and has been retired.

"The day started horrible but at least the champion came through," Baffert said from Southern California. "We were low, then went all the way down, and now came all the way back again."

The Gallant Bloom was relatively simple for Indian Blessing. After Zada Belle took the early lead, Indian Blessing, who broke from the rail under Corey Nakatani, tugged her way to a half-length lead over Zada Belle after a half-mile run in 45.09 seconds.

Turning for home, Indian Blessing put away Zada Belle, but Elope was poised to make a bid. Nakatani shook the reigns at Indian Blessing then hit her four times with a right-hand whip and she sped away. Nakatani geared Indian Blessing down the final 100 yards as Indian Blessing covered the 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:16.24. She returned $2.70. Elope was second by five lengths over Porte Bonheur. Zada Belle was last. Sugar Swirl, as expected, scratched.

"She broke really good," Nakatani said. "I sat there, I was biding my time, I didn't want to get her legs tied up with the other horse next to me. I let her move up a little bit, then just sat again and was pretty patient just waiting to call on her turning for home. And when I called on her she kicked away and did what she had to do to win."

Indian Blessing, owned by Hal and Patti Earnhardt, has now won 8 of 10 career starts, and the $90,000 first-place check from the Gallant Bloom pushed her career earnings to $2,087,200.

She is scheduled to ship to Baffert's Santa Anita barn on Monday to prepare for either the Breeders' Cup Sprint against the boys on Oct. 25 or the Filly and Mare Sprint on Oct. 24.

The victory was one of three on the day for Nakatani, who also won the $77,700 Missile Belle Stakes aboard Informed Decision ($4.70) and a 2-year-old maiden race aboard Brave Victory ($3.80).