With a determined charge through the stretch, Blame caught
heavily favored Quality Road
at the wire to win a thrilling 83rd edition of the Grade 1, $750,000
Whitney Invitational Handicap Saturday afternoon at Saratoga Race Course.
Confidently ridden by Garrett Gomez, the 4-year-old Arch
colt sat comfortably in fourth through the early going, no more than five
lengths off Quality Road’s surprisingly moderate opening fractions of 24.42,
48.06 and 1:11.92. Edging closer on the turn, Blame took dead aim on the
front-runner as the field of six turned for home, closing steadily under a
hand-ride and finally sticking his head in front for his fifth straight
His time for the 1 1/8th miles was 1:48.88.
“I actually moved up at about the three-eighths pole and I
felt pretty confident then,” said Gomez. “I was just biding my time until we
turned for home. I just didn’t want to sit too long because he’s got a long,
consistent run and just keeps coming. I just wanted to make sure that when we
turned for home, I did have him in a good place. He kept staying on and in that
last eighth of a mile, when I finally got right to [Quality Road], I said ‘I got him’.”
It was the first loss this year for Quality Road, who was seeking his third
straight Grade 1 victory. Sent off at as the 1-2 favorite by the crowd of
36,658, the 4-year-old son of Elusive Quality had been perfect in three starts
in 2010, including wins in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap and the Grade 1
Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont
“We had a comfortable trip, set reasonable fractions, and
just got run down at the wire,” said Todd Pletcher of the beaten favorite. “He
[Blame] ran a big race.”
Jockey John Velazquez said Quality Road did not have his usual
“I tried to put him in the bridle, but he was just going
through the motions, which is strange for him,” he said.
Musket Man finished third, another 1 ¾ lengths back,
followed by Haynesfield, 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, and Jardim.
Blame, owned by Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm,
returned $8.80 as the 3-1 second choice as he notched the second Grade 1 of his
career, having taken the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs in his previous
start. It also was his second victory at Saratoga
in as many starts, having taken the Curlin Stakes on August 2, 2009.
“I’m thrilled to death for everyone involved,” said Al
Stall, Jr., who said the victory was the biggest of his career as a trainer.
“The fact we were within four or five lengths from the three-eighths pole to
the wire – he’s pretty tough. If he’s within striking distance of a horse, he
usually gets there. That’s what I’ve learned about him in the last six months
The victory extended Blame’s lifetime record to 8-1-2 from
11 starts, with his winning streak now comprising the Grade 2 Fayette, the
Grade 2 Clark, the Grade 3 William D. Shaefer, the Stephen Foster and the
Whitney. It also was worth $450,000 and boosted Blame’s earnings to $1,518,214,
and made him the first horse to earn a guaranteed berth in the Breeders’ Cup
Classic as part of the “Win and You’re In” series.
“There will be one race between this and the Breeders’ Cup
Classic [November 6 at Churchill Downs],” said Stall. “It might be the Woodward
[September 4, Saratoga], the Jockey Club Gold
Cup [October 2, Belmont
Park] or the Hawthorne
Gold Cup. The breeders want to do the New
York stuff, which I do too.”