Rail Runner

The Observations of a Horse Racing Enthusiast

Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint: Blessing In Disguise

Posted by Brian Appleton on October 19, 2009

Ventura1

Ventura

Indian Blessing1

Indian Blessing

  breederscup2 This is my favorite Breeders Cup race aside from the Classic and Ladies Classic. The faster the better, sprints are constant excitement because they’re over in little more than a minute.  All the action is crammed into those few moments of thrills, it happens so fast you can’t take it all in. Every horse making their move almost simultaneously, one big group bunched up, flying into the homestretch as one.

   Last year saw heavy favorite Indian Blessing upstaged by the now well established Ventura. This year both mares are back for round two, and have returned to their top form of last year. It would seem these two mares are the class of the field, but a contingent of fresh, talented contenders is ready to join the fray. The two main standouts of this new contingent are Sara Louise and Informed Decision.

SaraLouise1

Sara Louise

   In the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr. 2) Indian Blessing fought a tenacious Sara Louise the length of the stretch to obtain the victory. Three year old Sara Louise was making just her second start of the year after having won the Victory Ride Stakes (gr. 3) at Saratoga.  Sara Louise holds the distinction of being the last horse to beat super filly Rachel Alexandra, albeit when they were two year olds and Rachel Alexandra had not yet developed into the monster she is now. With her gritty second to two time champion Indian Blessing, she showed that she is improving and certainly a force to be reckoned with if she heads for the Sprint. 

InformedDecision1

Informed Decision

   Informed Decision has compiled a very impressive record in 2009, already having defeated defending champ Ventura in April in the Vinery Madison Stakes at Keeneland racecourse. She is also undefeated on synthetic surfaces, but has never raced over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride synthetic surface. Her only defeat this year came in a third place finish in the Ballerina on a sloppy track to winner Music Note and runner-up Indian Blessing.

Ventura2

Ventura

   Ventura is the obvious favorite this year for several reasons. She already has one victory over the Santa Anita synthetics this year when winning the Santa Monica Handicap (gr.1) in January, and also chalked up an impressive second by a mere nose to Gio Ponti (the leading grass horse in America) on the Santa Anita turf in the Frank Kilroe Handicap (gr.1) in early March. Now with her most recent one-length victory in Canada’s Woodbine Mile (Can-1T) against males, she has put herself squarely in line to successfully defend her title from last year. She raced six wide down the stretch while posting a final time that was just off the stakes record in the Woodbine Mile, suggesting that she is at least as good as she was last year. This mare has one of the most eye-catching turns of foot you’ll ever see when she gets rolling and is super consistent.

Indian Blessing

Indian Blessing

   Indian Blessing is a personal favorite of mine, so I will say right up front that I never choose against her no matter how bad it looks. The first time I saw Indian Blessing was in 2007 at the Breeders Cup at Monmouth Park. It was my first year following live racing and I had instantly become a huge Curlin fan. I followed him from his very first start through to the end of his career. I attended his Preakness win, Belmont second and then the Breeders Cup. I had also heard about Indian Blessing after her impressive debut and was following her career very closely. The 2007 Breeders Cup was all about Curlin and Indian Blessing for me. I can’t even begin to describe the feelings I had when I saw them for the first time, not to mention the thrills I still get when I recall both their victories. Since that day, Indian Blessing has gone on to become the two year old champion filly of 2007 and champion female sprinter of 2008. This year she kicked things off with an impressive second in Dubai against the boys after stumbling at the start. Various physical problems kept her from returning to the races as quickly as was hoped, and when she did return it was to finish a disappointing fourth against much weaker competition than she was used to. That was the first time in her distinguished career that she finished unplaced. In the Ballerina she ran second to easy winner Music Note in the slop, defeating Informed Decision, but still not looking quite like her old self. As a result she was not favored in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (gr.1) against rising star Sara Louise. After a furious stretch duel with Sara Louise, she demonstrated the courage that had made her a two time champion and seized victory by the bob of a head. Indian Blessing returned to the winners circle, as if daring anyone to count her out again.  Her connections have indicated that she will be retired at the end of this year, possibly after the Breeders Cup. It would be a beautiful conclusion to a riveting career of one of the most brilliant, consistent and talented horses to come along in years, if she were to win this time around.

  Ventura has the advantage of multiple victories over the Santa Anita Pro-Ride synthetic surface and the turn of foot to make any opposing horseman shudder. Indian Blessing has the guts, courage and championships to prove her mettle. Informed decision is undefeated on synthetics so she should take nicely to this surface. Sara Louise is quickly improving, having just given Indian Blessing the race of her life, but is untested on the Pro-Ride synthetics. 

   Informed Decision has already defeated Ventura in the Vinery Madison Stakes, but Indian Blessing finished ahead of Informed Decision in the Ballerina and then defeated Sara Louise in the Gallant Bloom. From a purely statistical standpoint, Indian Blessing holds the advantage. However, horse racing is never just about statistics. There are countless other factors to take into consideration such as the weather, but more often than not, it’s the courage of these incredible athletes that wins the races.

SeventhStreet1

Seventh Street

Flashing1

Flashing

PorteBonheur1

Porte Bonheur

DubaiMajesty1

Dubai Majesty

BearNow1

Bear Now

Evita Argentina1

Evita Argentina

Carlsbad1

Carlsbad

   Once again I realize that I left out a good amount of serious contenders so I’ll try to cover a few of the main ones quickly. The three year old filly Carlsbad has proven it is never wise to ignore her. Last out she finished second by three parts of a length to Informed Decision in the Thoroughbred Club of America (gr. 2) at Keeneland after taking the lead into the stretch. She has won four stakes this season alone and always handles the step up in class like a true professional. Others under consideration for the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint include: Seventh Street, Flashing, Porte Bonheur, Dubai Majesty, Bear Now and Evita Argentina. All represent a genuine threat and should be carefully taken into consideration.

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13 Responses to “Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint: Blessing In Disguise”

  1. Mom said

    So glad I have such an informed young man to help sort out the contenders and various fields!! 🙂 (Can you just picture Joseph saying–Who are you rooting for??? Me, too!! and then settling down to watch with avid interest and NOISE?)

  2. Brian,

    Thanks for checking in to my blog.

    Very nice synopsis of the race three weeks out. This will be a very contentious race despite the presence of Ventura and Indian Blessing, 1-2 in last year’s race. The other fillies you’ve mentioned all rate legitimate upset chances and are a much stronger bunch than the group that ran 3rd through last in ’08. This race illustrates that distaffers are the most consistent of the sexes…when they are good, they stay really good. Most ran 1st or a very competitive 2nd last time out and figure to reproduce those efforts again. Pace analysis will be the key to finding the winner of this race.

    Last year, Ventura catapulted home because of an unheard of :21 4/5 second 1/4 fraction. I believe that because of how last year’s track played to closers, the pace players will go to the front with less conviction thus bunching the field. Expect the finish to be frantic and a blanket could be thrown on the top four or five finishers.

    Indian Blessing is as tough as they breed them, but the 7f distance with the presence of Bear Now, Carlsbad, and Dubai Majesty hurts her. That means with her new-found style, she’ll be tracking legitimate pace players at a less than ideal trip. She may have to wait for room in a crowded field, unlike she did last year when she tracked one pace-setter, which makes her even more susceptible to Ventura and the other closers who will be rallying wide and unimpeded. Did you catch my take on the Gallant Bloom (http://amateurcapper.blogspot.com/2009/09/gallant-bloom-h-sept-26-2009-video.html), the best race of the year IMHO? The best fillies ran a personal match race. Upon further review, there’s no way Indian Blessing holds off Sara Louise if she is forced to run harder in the second 1/4. If she can handle the Pro-ride, Sara could be the stiffest challenger to Ventura.

    Look forward to trading more opinion with you.

    • Thanks, I like the points you brought up. There’s always something more to find, I love it when people bring up things I hadn’t really though about.
      I just read your post on the Gallant Bloom and loved it. I remember going onto the NTRA website the week of the Gallant Bloom and seeing on the Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint blog that the author had stated Indian Blessing as being one of the biggest dissapointments of 2009. While I agree that her first race back, and her subsequent fourth place finish was dissapointing, I don’t think her second to Music Note was as bad as it looked first off. Baffert said that she had several foot issues after her unplaced effort and didn’t seem quite right for awhile after Dubai. Her race there against all males after stumbling at the start and starting from the far outside was brilliant from my point of view. She only lost by half a length and was still closing at the wire.

      • Brian,

        When you’ve won the races that Indian Blessing has…anything other than a win can be considered disappointing. One thing is certain, she’s one of the best and sturdiest runners in her 2005 foal crop. How can anyone argue her record of 16-10-5-0 for just under $3 million earnings? Five G.1 wins plus back-to-back Gallant Bloom victories and the 2004 Champion Juvenile Filly title…that’s quite a resume. While those are my TBA brothers and sisters in the blogging world doing the NTRA thing, I don’t agree with many of them. You shouldn’t either. Respect their opinions for possibly giving you novel information, but make your own conclusions.

        Like I commented to you yesterday on my site, don’t let anyone talk you off Indian Blessing…including me. Take a stand, then let the chips (or in this case, comments) fall where they may.

        I respect your passion for Indian Blessing and I’ll definitely re-think Sara Louise over her before the Breeders’ Cup. Indian Blessing losing to Music Note in the G.1 Ballerina could be the key race of the year…she was gaining wind after those foot problems, was no match for the filly I think is the one to beat in the Lady’s Classic (if Zenyatta goes in the Classic) but held off F&M Sprint contender Informed Decision, a G.1 winner in the slop, for 2nd. That set ‘Blessing up for the Gallant Bloom win. Baffert has given her a two race foundation that could produce her peak effort in the 3rd start of this racing cycle. Three times in her career she’s made a three start racing cylce; her record in those 3rd starts: 3-2-1-0, and the 2nd was around 2 turns in the FG Oaks. She’ll also be running fresh off a 41 day rest.

        Wait a minute…are you making me change my mind :-)?!?!?!

      • Absolutely! Not only is Indian Blessing the Champion Juvenile Filly of 2007, she is also the Champion Female Sprinter of 2008. I like your two-race foundation angle, I never thought of that before but it’s very true. Baffert knows her well by now, and always seems to get the most out of her works, so the 41 day rest is no worry.
        I just was on your blog and commented on your new post about Music Note. So many angles to play in horse racing but I agree with you again here. If Zenyatta opts for the Classic and not the Ladies Classic then Music Note is the horse to beat. Careless Jewel is the only possible wrench in this plan, no one really knows how good this filly could be.

  3. I think Informed Decision is the one to beat this year.
    But a full field of fillies may cause traffic. I think a lot of horses may move a bit too early to avoid getting parked on the turn in all the Pro-Ride sprints.

    The top grade sprinters usually have a strong middle move
    and those making that move on the turn (widest of all)
    are going to may flatten out in the lane.

    The post position draw will be crucial for many of the competitors. Their strategy will be determined from that point on.

  4. Mom said

    Ummm??? I heard rumors that there was a new post. 🙂

  5. Regarding the Ladies’ Classic – agree Music Note is the horse to beat, but I’ll be backing Careless Jewel. Just something about that tenacious 3-year-old that strikes me. I’m letting the cat out of the bag here – as that was my grand finale for the Breeders’ Cup posts. 🙂

    Love what you’re doing here, Brian. Stay at it no matter what! 🙂

    For the BC Sprint, I went with Sara Louise – I’m sure you can figure out why given your knowledge of me and how my selections typically work. 🙂

    • Right on Kevin, we think very much alike! Carless Jewel is sensational, I would love to see her win the Breeders Cup Ladies Classic. Can you imagine; Carless Jewel winning the Ladies Classic and Rachel Alexandra winning the Preakness, Haskell and Woodward? What a year for the fillies that would be!

      Sara Louise for the Filly and Mare Sprint…couldn’t be the fact that she was the last one to beat a certain horse we all know and love is it? (-:

  6. Brian,

    I’m sorry to have to break this to you, perhaps you already know…your girl Indian Blessing won’t run in the BC F&M Sprint.

    Apparently she’s not handling the Pro-ride well enough for Baffert’s liking.

    Here’s the link: http://drf.com/news/article/108404.html

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