08/07/2009 11:00PM

Spa seems to agree with Indian Blessing


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - It appears that a return trip to Saratoga is doing two-time Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing a world of good.

On Saturday, Indian Blessing, the defending champion filly and mare sprinter, worked four furlongs in 48.88 seconds over the Oklahoma training track, getting her last quarter in 23.80 seconds under exercise rider Simon Harris. Indian Blessing, who was the 2007 2-year-old filly champion, is preparing for a start in the Grade 1 Ballerina here on Aug. 29.

"Just cruising, looked great," said John Terranova, who along with his wife, Tonja, is overseeing trainer Bob Baffert's New York string.

Saturday's drill was Indian Blessing's first work since July 12. Indian Blessing has not run since finishing fourth as the 1-2 favorite in the Desert Stormer Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 14. She came out of that race with a hind leg infection.

Baffert had her entered in the Grade 1 Princess Rooney at Calder on July 11, but scratched after he feared the horse would test positive for the medication procaine. Baffert had to treat Indian Blessing's infection with penicillin after other antibiotics didn't work, and procaine is in penicillin.

"Whatever [issues] there were we're in good shape now," John Terranova said. "Couldn't be happier. She's looking like her old self.''

Saratoga has always been one of Indian Blessing's favorite haunts. In 2007, she won her career debut here by 5 1/4 lengths. Last year, Indian Blessing won the Grade 1 Test by seven.

Baffert is due in Monday. On Friday, he will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Midshipman also enjoying Saratoga

Midshipman, last year's 2008 2-year-old champion, also seems to be rounding into form at the Spa.

Midshipman, unraced since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October, worked four furlongs in 50.20 seconds over Saratoga's main track. It was his second half-mile move at this meet and fourth workout overall since July 18.

"He worked very good today, he's improved since Dubai," said trainer Saeed bin Suroor, in town for the sales and to check in on Godolphin's string of North American-based horses. "He's getting better, healthier, sounder, he worked nicely. He's coming well, but he still needs some more time."

While there is no comeback race picked out for Midshipman, Suroor said he was hopeful the horse could make it back to the races in time for a start or two and then perhaps a try in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile at Santa Anita on Nov. 7.

"He likes the racetrack there," Suroor said. "We'll see how he runs."

Suroor also commented that Vineyard Haven, whom Godolphin purchased following his victories in the Hopeful and Champagne, is also doing much better in America than he did in Dubai. Vineyard Haven has worked five times since July 7, including a five-furlong move in 1:03.72 on Aug. 5.

"When he was in Dubai, he wasn't doing good, he didn't enjoy it," Suroor said. "He had high action; he didn't show the form that he had. Here, he's a happier horse back on the dirt. I'm looking to see something from both of them in the future."

Suroor said the Grade 1 King's Bishop on Aug. 29 could be an option for Vineyard Haven.

In other Godolphin news, Cocoa Beach, winner of Wednesday's De La Rose Stakes, could make her next start in the Grade 3, $100,000 Noble Damsel Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 19, assistant trainer Rick Mettee said.

Bill Johnson, former announcer, dies

Bill Johnson, who worked for the New York Racing Association for nearly three decades, died Friday night after a bout with pancreatitis. He was 76.

In the 1950s, Johnson worked as an assistant to track announcer Fred "Cappy" Capossela and also as director of radio and television for NYRA until 1980. For the last 19 years, Johnson has published the annual periodical Saratoga Summer, a glossy magazine his daughter Lisa Barber said will continue.

Barber said funeral arrangements were pending, but that she hoped to hold a wake in the Saratoga area on Aug. 18, a non-racing day, with a funeral the following day, which would have been Johnson's 77th birthday.

Better Talk Now ready for Sword Dancer

The 10-year-old Better Talk Now, winner of the 2004 Sword Dancer and runner-up to Grand Couturier last year, is being pointed to a third start in Sword Dancer next Saturday.

Better Talk Now was scheduled to arrive here on Tuesday or Wednesday from Fair Hill, Md., where he worked seven furlongs in 1:28 over the all-weather surface.

Better Talk Now has not run since finishing third in the Grade 1 Manhattan on June 6. He was entered to run in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park on July 4, but scratched after popping a splint bone in a hind leg.

"It's very unusual for a 10-year-old to pop a splint," trainer Graham Motion said. "It's not a serious injury, but its something enough to bother him where he couldn't run that week."

Motion said he wasn't bothered by missing the U.N. because the Sword Dancer is the race he really wanted to run in.

"The U.N. was because he was doing so well there was no reason not to run him in between," Motion said. "But this is the race we wanted to run in up here. The mile and a half, he likes this turf course, this is much more his style running here."

Grand Couturier, winner of the last two Sword Dancers, heads the prospective field. Others pointing to the race include Americain, Brass Hat, Lauro, Musketier, Quijano, and Rising Moon.