09/26/2009 12:00AM

Which way is Sara Louise headed?


ELMONT, N.Y. - It's the upstart 3-year-old and potential bounce candidate Sara Louise versus two-time Eclipse Award winner and potential bounce-back candidate Indian Blessing in Saturday's Grade 2, $150,000 Gallant Bloom Handicap at Belmont Park.

In addition to the $90,000 first-place purse, at stake is an automatic berth into the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Sprint on Nov. 6 at Santa Anita. The Gallant Bloom, run at 6 1/2 furlongs, is part of the Breeders' Cup's Win and You're In program.

Sara Louise, the last horse to beat leading 2009 Horse of the Year candidate Rachel Alexandra, returned from a nine-month layoff to win the Grade 3 Victory Ride Stakes at Saratoga, rallying strongly from off the pace to win by two lengths in the mud. The horse she beat, Bold Union, came back to win the Grade 3 Endine Stakes at Delaware Park on Sept. 12. Rick Mettee, the New York-based assistant trainer for Godolphin Stable, owner of Sara Louise, said while he was expecting a good effort from Sara Louise in the Victory Ride, he wasn't necessarily looking for her to run that fast.

Now, the question is, will Sara Louise move forward or will she regress off her career-best effort in the Victory Ride?

"If they're going to react, they're going to react,'' Mettee said. "She certainly gives you every indication she's ready to run a good one.''

Edgar Prado rides Sara Louise from post 3.

Indian Blessing, who won this race last year, comes off a second-place finish to Music Note in the Grade 1 Ballerina at Saratoga, a race she went into following a poor performance in the Desert Stormer Stakes at Hollywood Park and subsequent missed training time due to a foot abscess. Her handlers feel she is ready to return to form in this spot.

"Every indication is she's at the top of her game again,'' said Tonja Terranova, who has overseen Indian Blessing's training for trainer Bob Baffert since mid-July. "She was carrying a lot of weight [heading into the Ballerina]. Two weeks of walking is a lot, and she missed a breeze because of the rain. It all adds up.''

John Velazquez rides Indian Blessing, the 123-pound highweight, from post 2.

Thunders Dove, trained by Nick Zito, has reeled off five consecutive victories, but makes her first foray into graded company. Any Limit makes her first start since a fourth in the Vagrancy in May.