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Blame Edges Quality Road in Whitney

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 victory.

 

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 Park.

 

“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 spark.

 

“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 or so.”


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.”

 

 

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Older Comments about Blame Edges Quality Road in Whitney...

Less than stellar ride for QH. When you have the ONLY speed in the race, that will last anyway, you go out quickly, open up,give the horse a breather and then go again..Did not happen that way.

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