07/03/2008 11:00PM

Two fast fillies return to sprinting


ELMONT, N.Y. - Indian Blessing and Secret Gypsy began their careers in identical fashion. In debuts two weeks apart last summer at Saratoga, Indian Blessing and Secret Gypsy won by open lengths, each running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.26.

While Indian Blessing went on to win her next four races - and was named 2-year-old filly champion - Secret Gypsy went to the sidelines with a crack in a cannon bone and was away for nine months.

Saturday, the two speedy fillies find themselves in the same place, the Grade 1 Prioress at Belmont Park, where both cut back to six furlongs while trying to put the brakes on a two-race losing streak.

This will be the first true sprint for Indian Blessing since she won the seven-furlong Santa Ynez in her 3-year-old debut at Santa Anita in January. She comes off a 4 1/4-length defeat to Zaftig in the Grade 1 Acorn going a mile here on June 7.

"She ran hard the other day, but she was coming from here," said Baffert, referring to the synthetic surface of Santa Anita where Indian Blessing had been training since March. "The other filly just ran a big race; can't make excuses."

Baffert left Indian Blessing in New York, which he believes "will be a plus" leading to the Prioress. Indian Blessing shows two solid five-furlong works since the Acorn, including a 59.91-second move on Monday.

With Garrett Gomez riding in Southern California on Saturday, John Velazquez has picked up the mount on Indian Blessing, the 122-pound highweight, who breaks from post 3.

"I think Johnny fits those kind of horses really well," Baffert said of front-running types.

Trainer Ronny Werner brought Secret Gypsy back from her layoff in the La Troienne at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, and she finished fifth after a troubled trip. She came back four weeks later in the one-mile Dogwood, finishing third.

"I was hoping she was going to be able to get the mile, but it seems like she just wants to sprint," Werner said. "We're shortening her up. Hopefully, it works."

The prospect of a speed duel between Indian Blessing and Secret Gypsy could set things up for a horse from off the pace, such as the undefeated New York-bred By the Light, trained by Richard Dutrow Jr., or Indian Way, trained by Anthony Dutrow. Indian Way is coming off a good-looking maiden win at Hollywood Park when trained by Eoin Harty.

Adding depth to this field are Palanka City, winner of three straight; Tale of the West, undefeated in two starts; and Honest to Betsy.