06/13/2007 11:00PM

Will Indian Vale flower again in Fleur de Lis?


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The Louisville Breeders' Cup on Kentucky Oaks Day was a race that was expected to illustrate whether Indian Vale had returned to her brilliant fall 3-year-old form of 2005 or if she had lost a step with age.

It proved neither. Racing over a sloppy track, she weakened to fourth - leaving observers wondering if the the reason for her defeat was the slop or if she is now a cut below top-class filly.

Jockey John Velazquez blamed the wet track for her struggling late. "I was holding her together up there," he said. "Then I asked her for it and she couldn't give me anything. She couldn't get hold of the track. She was slipping and sliding all over the place."

Track condition should not be an issue Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs on the Stephen Foster undercard. Sunny skies are forecast, suggesting Indian Vale will get a fast track here - a surface over which she won the Grade 2 Falls City Handicap in November 2005.

Although it's unlikely that Saturday's track condition will challenge her, the competition will. The Fleur De Lis is a tougher race than the Louisville Breeders' Cup. In it are three fillies that finished in front of Indian Vale in the Louisville Breeders' Cup - Fiery Pursuit, Asi Siempre, and Baghdaria - as well as the top three finishers from the May 18 Allaire duPont Breeders' Cup Distaff at Pimlico - Rolling Sea, Leah's Secret, and Kettleoneup.

Also entered is Ermine, who won the Grade 1 Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park in her last start April 7.

"The race is extremely competitive," said trainer Steve Asmussen, who will saddle Allaire duPont Breeders' Cup winner Rolling Sea.

Working in Indian Vale's favor is the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Fleur De Lis. She is perfect in five starts at 1 1/8 miles, compared to 1 for 4 at all other distances.

Indian Vale has been stabled at Churchill Downs since the May 4 Louisville Breeders' Cup.

"She has trained well here over the past six weeks," said Mike McCarthy, assistant to her trainer, Todd Pletcher.

Ermine, a surprisingly high 3-1 on the track morning line, behind Indian Vale (2-1) and Asi Siempre (5-2), also has breezed well in recent months after a short freshening following the Apple Blossom.

She has been in top form since November, when she won the Falls City Handicap at Churchill.