03/08/2008 1:00AM

Proud Spell turns tables in Oaks

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NEW ORLEANS - On her third try, Proud Spell figured out Indian Blessing, coming home 2 1/2 lengths in front of her previously unbeaten rival on Saturday in the Grade 2, $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.

The victory improved Proud Spell's record to four victories from six races, and avenged the only two losses of her career, and set her up as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Oaks.

Trained by Larry Jones and ridden by Gabriel Saez, Proud Spell covered the race's 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.01, and paid $5.80 to win as the second favorite.

The race began, as all of them have for Indian Blessing, with a quick trip to the front, where she set a comfortable pace. Proud Spell rated a length off the pace, but never allowed Indian Blessing to get comfortable.

At the top of the stretch, Saez sent Proud Spell. Indian Blessing began to falter, giving up ground the entire stretch, as Proud Spell overtook her and then drew away.

"My filly ran great," said Saez. "We knew we had to stay close, but I can't go too fast."

"We knew we couldn't let her get away too easily," said Jones. "If Indian Blessing had been relaxed on the front, Gabriel's instructions were to get up and wrassle with her."

Jones felt that Proud Spell's effort in the Silverbulletday, where she finished a length in back of Indian Blessing, set her up well for the race today.

"We knew we could ask more of her today, with a race under her," said Jones. "We asked her and she was enough to get by."

Indian Blessing's jockey, Garrett Gomez, made no excuses for her first defeat in six races.

"I had a perfect race," said Gomez. "I thought I could take Proud Spell out of her game, but when I saw the shadow I knew we were in trouble."

Gomez believed that the race was still an improvement for Indian Blessing.

"If anything it was better than her last effort," said Gomez. "She was second best today."

After Proud Spell and Indian Blessing, it was 11 1/2 lengths back to Acacia, who earned black type in a graded stakes while defeating only Wisconsin Lady.

Jones has been pointing Proud Spell toward the Kentucky Oaks all winter. He indicated she might run next in the Grade 1 Ashland at Keeneland on April 5.

"The Ashland would be the ideal spot," said Jones. "But if she seems the least bit tired, then I wouldn't hesitate to skip it and go to the Oaks."