E.V. horse on track to make history - East Valley Tribune: Sports

E.V. horse on track to make history

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Posted: Wednesday, October 22, 2008 8:39 pm | Updated: 9:48 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The proposal was staggering.

A year ago about this time, Queen Creek residents Hal Earnhardt III and his wife, Patti, were considering a large monetary offer from one of the world's richest families.

The son of the Prince of Dubai wanted to purchase their up-and-coming thoroughbred filly, Indian Blessing, and he was prepared to pay life-changing money.

"We were very flattered," said Hal Earnhardt, the president of Earnhardt Auto Centers.

Indian Blessing, at the time, had only two races to her name but had won both convincingly. Her planned coming-out party was hours away at the Breeders' Cup, and although she was the favorite in the Juvenile Fillies race at 3-1, two big questions remained.

How would she hold up in the mud, and would she be affected by a large field that included 12 other horses? Such conditions were foreign to her.

The Earnhardts knew an offer like this might never come along again, so taking the cash was the easy choice.

In the end, they picked love over money.

"Absolutely, it was a difficult decision," Earnhardt said earlier this week.

"What we decided was this (horse racing) is the love of our lives. We knew we had something we thought was genuinely special. ...

"I think we made the right decision."

Indian Blessing, now one of the top sprint horses in the world, went on to win by 3 1/2 lengths on the sloppy track that day and has been dominant ever since. She was named 2-year-old filly of the year in 2007, is undefeated in sprints and has won eight of 10 career races. She finished second in the races she didn't win and those were at distances of one mile and 1 1/16 miles.

Her career earnings are just more than $2 million, and on Friday she has a chance to make Breeders' Cup history.

The 3-year-old will run in the event's first race, the Filly and Mare Sprint (seven furlongs) at 12:35 p.m., and is the heavy favorite at 2-1. If she wins, she will become the first horse to win two different Breeders' Cup races.

Indian Blessing will start from the fifth post position, just outside Earnhardt's ideal 6-10 range, but again there is a question. How will she handle the track's new synthetic surface, a combination of sand and rubber fiber composite?

"We've run her once on a synthetic surface and she won, but she was not as impressive as she has been on the dirt," said Earnhardt, before confidently adding, "The good ones usually find a way."

Indian Blessing comes into the Breeders' Cup having won her last three races - two at Belmont Park, one at Saratoga - by a combined 18 1/2 lengths.

"What she's done this year has been remarkable," Earnhardt said. "Her style is get to the front and run them off their feet. She's precociously fast."

Genetics and one of the sport's elite trainers are on her side. Indian Blessing's sire was Indian Charlie, who won four of five career races and 10 years ago finished third at the Kentucky Derby. His dam, Shameful, also a sprinter, won four of 12 career starts. The Earnhardts own both horses.

"We've been blessed by doing this the hard, old-fashioned way," Earnhardt said.

Their long-standing relationship with Bob Baffert has also helped. Earnhardt has been a client of Baffert's for about 25 years, longer than any other owner. Should Indian Blessing win Friday, she will wrap up her second straight Eclipse Award and the 12th of Baffert's career.

And that, for the Earnhardts, would be priceless.

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