Last Saturday we saw the redemption of a champion. In the Gallant Bloom Indian Blessing, second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, in March, ended a three race losing streak. It looked as if the year would get off to a good start for the daughter of Indian Charlie, but after she returned off to America, off her impressive runner up finish to boys in Dubai, her form started to decline.
Indian Blessing missed her first scheduled start, the Humana Distaff, her trainer had said the reason why, was that in her last work, she just didn't seem to have enough energy. The champion filly resurfaced next in the Desert Stormer Handicap, where she finished a disappointing fourth. This race could have had a couple of excuses, being the Dubai bounce, a long layoff, or the fact that Indian Blessing prefers conventional dirt to synthetics, which is what the Desert Stormer was run over. She then, again missed her next start the Princess Rooney Handicap, due to medication complications that may arise, since she had just been treated with penicillin for a leg infection. Indian Blessing's third start of the year would finally come in the Ballerina Stakes, where she would finish a well beaten second to the talented Music Note. This time there seemed no real excuse for Indian Blessing, except that she just, possibly, was not the same horse she was when she was champion two year old and three year old.
Last Saturday, though, Indian Blessing proved her doubters, wrong and gave her supporters something to be proud of. Breaking a beat slow, Indian Blessing rushed up to run just behind the leaders, running a blazing first quarter in 22.29 seconds. After a half mile in 45.15, it looked like Indian Blessing would be pinned down on the rail, with nowhere to run, when, as if on cue, a gap opened up between Any Limit and Thunders Dove. Wasting no time Indian Blessing shot through the gap. Down the lane Indian Blessing had the lead, but the talented Sara Louise, the last horse to beat Rachel Alexandra, was persistently chipping away at her lead. Indian Blessing gave a burst of speed, only to find Sara Louise also had more left. As the wire came Indian Blessing stuck her nose down, to score her first win of the season.
As we conclude our recap of last weekend's race topper, it is time to move on to this coming weekend, which is filled with Grade ones and Breeders Cup preps, only to be topped off by the $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup. The big three pointing towards this race are the improving Summer Bird, winner of the Belmont and Travers, Quality Road, Florida Derby and Amsterdam winner. Lastly you have the classy Macho Again, winner of the Stephen Foster and runner up in both the Whitney and Woodward.
In his most recent race Quality Road ran a decent third place in the Travers Stakes for 3 year olds, where he was beat by Summer Bird. Quality Road may have the excuse of running his second race off a four month layoff, translating to the possibility he was not fit enough to run the 1 1/4 mile race, off of just a six and a half furlong tune up. Still, I've never seen this one, as talented as he is, as a mile and a quarter type of horse, especially when he's racing against Summer Bird, who only gets better as the distances grow.
Macho Again, last out ran second, coming closer to beating Rachel Alexandra than any other horse has this season. He is a closer, and should not mind the added distance. As a three year old he closed to be second in the Preakness to Big Brown. His last few starts he's been the picture of consistency. He was second in back to back grade ones and won the Stephen Foster in June, defeating the versatile Einstein. He ran a career best Beyer speed figure last out, and if he keeps improving, it may just be enough to knock off the two three year old stars.
Lastly we come to the leader of the 3 year old division, Summer Bird. Summer Bird just started racing this year, and has been improving with each and every race. After finishing third in the Arkansas Derby, he ran a troubled sixth in the Kentucky Derby. He then bypassed the Preakness and flew by Dunkirk and Derby winner Mine That Bird in the Belmont. After that he finished an impressive second to Rachel Alexandra. Last out in the Travers he galloped his rivals into the ground loving every bit of the muddy mile and a quarter race. Now he returns to Belmont a track he's won over previously, looking to improve, yet again. If he does improve, there are not many horses, not even Macho Again or Quality Road, that can run with him.