Okay, so three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert does not have anyone on this year's Classic trail, so far. But thanks to Indian Blessing, he does have the best 3-year-old filly in the nation. Undefeated in five starts, the 2007 juvenile champion will look to continue her domination March 8 in the $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks.
On Feb. 29 I caught up with Baffert to ask him about the daughter of Indian Charlie - and a couple of other subjects.
JS: How is Indian Blessing training and what changes have you noticed in her since she has turned 3?
BB: She is looking and training very well. She hasn't missed a beat. The good ones handle everything that you throw at them. She is aggressive and enjoys training.
I think she has grown a little since last year; she has great conformation and is just a gorgeous filly. She is very relaxed.
JS: Thus far, Indian Blessing has had the lead into the stretch in every one of her five races. Are you looking forward to seeing how she reacts when she has to fight for the lead?
BB: Well, in her last race (Feb. 9 Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds), there was a fast filly in there that challenged her early. I thought she sat off of her nicely. But she just loves to run and to separate around that turn. She is so talented I think she can handle anything.
JS: After the Fair Grounds Oaks what are your plans for Indian Blessing?
BB: Ultimately we're hoping to make it to the (Kentucky) Oaks. But I'm not sure what we're going to do in between. She's doing so well that I don't want to map anything out. I'll let her tell me when she's ready to run again. I've learned that you can't put a square peg in a round hole. We'll just see what happens.
One thing I know is that I'll try to keep her on dirt. The synthetic surfaces are too unpredictable.
JS: You have had some very talented fillies in your career. How does Indian Blessing compare with your best.
BB: I've had three top fillies, Chilukki, Silverbulletday and now Indian Blessing. Chilukki was more like Indian Blessing in that she was extremely fast and had brilliant speed. They both liked to get the lead and just run away. Silverbulletday was totally different. She liked to sit off the pace and then the rider could just push a button and she'd go. She had great speed, but could contain it a little better.
JS: Speaking of Silverbulletday, you ran her in the 1999 Belmont Stakes. Is there a possibility that Indian Blessing could run against the boys some day?
BB: I didn't nominate her for the Classics because I didn't want that temptation. We're just having fun with her and want to keep her happy and healthy. It's hard enough to get a good one like this, so we'll enjoy her without thinking about the Derby, Preakness or Belmont. My clients know how lucky they are to have her, so I think we're content.
JS: Your name is noticeably absent from the Kentucky Derby contenders list. Do you have any late-blooming 3-year-olds that we should know about?
BB: I have a couple good-looking ones, but I'm not going to go to the Derby if I have no shot to win it. The thing about the Derby is that you can't make it happen. You train them and if they are good enough you'll know. You can't push it.
JS: Your name was also noticeably missing from the 2008 Hall of Fame nominees list. Does it bother you that you were left off?
BB: Well, first of all, I think Carl Nafzger and the others were all deserving. But I really don't get caught up in it. It's one of those things, if it happens, it happens. It's out of my control. I wasn't upset. My mother was really the only one that was (laughs). But she was just being a mother. I've learned over the years that if it's out of my hands, then don't worry about it.
** In a related handicapping side note, for all those reading this blog before the afternoon of March 1, a little birdie told me that he likes a horse called, Screen to Screen, in race 1 at Santa Anita on Saturday. He is a 3-year-old maiden that happens to be trained by none other than, Bob Baffert. Tweet Tweet.