03/06/2008 1:00AM

Indian Blessing's race to lose


NEW ORLEANS – When you are as good as Indian Blessing, even your reputation becomes a weapon in your arsenal. The undefeated filly has scared off almost all the competition in Saturday’s Fair Grounds Oaks, leaving herself only three fillies to defeat, none of whom are likely to test her early.

Only Proud Spell, who has finished second to her twice, looks to be a serious threat to spoil her perfect record.

The Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks, Saturday’s eighth race, will go at 1?1/16 miles and looks to be a virtual match race between Indian Blessing and Proud Spell, who finished one-two in the Silverbulletday. They will be joined by Wisconsin Lady and Acacia, who figure to be running for the chance to finish third in a graded stakes.

In her five races, Indian Blessing has answered all questions: She has won on the dirt and on a synthetic surface, she has won sprints and routes, and she handled an off track well enough to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, defeating Proud Spell by

3 1/2 lengths.

As if that’s not enough to scare off the competition, Indian Blessing’s trainer, Bob Baffert, feels more confident going into the Oaks than he did before her victory in last month’s Silverbulletday.

“She’ll run a better race,” said Baffert. “She’s held her form, she’s worked awesome, and when she goes for the wire she puts everything into it.”

In the Silverbulletday, Indian Blessing set reasonable fractions, leaving herself enough in the tank to withstand Proud Spell’s charge in the long Fair Grounds stretch and hold on for a one-length victory.

With the Oaks being run over the same track and distance as the Silverbulletday, Proud Spell’s trainer, Larry Jones, must look for different tactics. To that end, he plans to send Proud Spell to challenge Indian Blessing earlier than he did in the Silverbulletday.

“She’s got a race under her now, so we can ask her to do more,” said Jones. “She can press Indian Blessing a little sooner, not leave herself so much work to do late in the race.”

Proud Spell seems to be improving, having closed the gap on Indian Blessing from

3 1/2 lengths in the Breeders’ Cup to a length in the Silverbulletday. But Jones still wishes he had the benefit of a fast speed horse to challenge Indian Blessing.

“If I had a rabbit for Indian Blessing to chase, I’d send her, but I don’t have a horse quick enough to go with her,” said Jones. “As it is, we have to do our own dirty work.”