08/25/2009 11:00PM

Weight in Indian Blessing's favor

Barbara D. Livingston
Vineyard Haven, with Simon Harris, will return from a long layoff in the King's Bishop.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - While the absence of Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird from the Grade 1, $1 million Shadwell Travers Stakes may have taken some of the starch out of the richest and most significant race of the day Saturday at Saratoga, the supporting card has come up strong, with a pair of Grade 1 races that feature a two-time Eclipse Award winner and the return of one of the top 2-year-olds from last year.

Indian Blessing, the champion 2-year-old filly of 2007 and last year's Eclipse Award-winning female sprinter, seeks her first win of this year in the Grade 1, $300,000 Ballerina Stakes. The Ballerina is at seven furlongs, the same distance as the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, in which Indian Blessing ran second last year.

Indian Blessing has raced twice previously at Saratoga, and has won both times, including a runaway victory in last year's Test Stakes.

In the Ballerina, Indian Blessing will take on the streaking Informed Decision, who has won five straight races, all at seven furlongs. Under the conditions of the race, Informed Decision at 122 must give three pounds to Indian Blessing.

Four others are in the Ballerina - Music Note, Tar Heel Mom, Modification, and P.S.U. Grad.

It was at last year's Saratoga meet where Vineyard Haven stamped himself as a top-class 2-year-old colt with his victory in the Hopeful Stakes. He subsequently won the Champagne Stakes, but then was sold to Godolphin Racing by a partnership that included his trainer, Bobby Frankel.

Vineyard Haven raced just once this spring, finishing 10th in the United Arab Emirates 2000 Guineas. He makes his first start in more than seven months in the Grade 1, $300,000 King's Bishop Stakes, which drew an outstanding field of 3-year-olds going seven furlongs.

The King's Bishop is headed by Munnings, who is returning to a sprint after finishing third in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth, and Capt. Candyman Can, second to Quality Road when a 6 1/2-furlong track record was set here in the Amsterdam.

Prior to the Haskell, Munnings won the Woody Stephens and the Tom Fool at Belmont Park. Capt. Candyman Can is a three-time stakes winner this year.

Others in the King's Bishop are Big Drama, who has crossed the wire first in his last five sprints, along with Not for Silver, Everyday Heroes, Despite the Odds, Prince Joshua, and Flat Bold.

There are two other graded stakes on the undercard.

The Grade 2, $200,000 Ballston Spa Stakes drew eight older female turf runners, including Rutherienne, who was an unlucky third in the Diana Stakes here earlier this month. She drew the rail in the 1 1/16-mile grass race. Outside her, in post position order, are My Princess Jess, Closeout, Dyna's Lassie, Teamgeist, Captain's Lover, Cocoa Beach, and Salve Germania.

Captain's Lover, a group stakes winner in her native South Africa and France, won the Matchmaker Stakes at Monmouth on Aug. 2 after it was rained off the turf. There is a chance of showers on Saturday.

"I think she prefers turf," said her trainer, Todd Pletcher, "but obviously she's okay if she has to run on an off track."

The Grade 3, $100,000 Victory Ride Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at six furlongs goes as the seventh race on the card and begins the parade of graded stakes races. Sara Louise, the last horse to beat Rachel Alexandra - in the Pocahontas Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 1 - makes her first start of the year and since being privately purchased by Godolphin Racing. She drew the outside post.

Her rivals, from the rail out, are Trix in the City, Bold Union, Reforestation, Sky Haven, All of Her Twist, Juliet's Spirit, Step Out Smartly, and Selva.