Churchill Downs announced Friday that it will move its current spring-summer meet to Ellis Park starting next Saturday. Before that move, the Louisville, Ky., track will host a stakes-packed card Saturday and an additional set of races Sunday.
The Blame is the final of six stakes races that will take place Saturday under the twin spires. Four are graded and all six carry purses of $225,000.
This race is a prep to the $1 million Stephen Foster Stakes (G1) on July 1, a Breeders’ Cup Classic qualifier. Saturday’s Stephen Foster preview day card will serve as the penultimate day of racing at Churchill until September after Friday’s news.
The move of race dates from Churchill to Ellis Park – a Henderson, Ky., track Churchill Downs, Inc. bought last year – follows a spate of horse deaths over the past five weeks in Louisville. Twelve horses have died after training or racing at Churchill since April 27, when Kentucky Derby contender Wild On Ice broke down following a workout.
The federal Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority issued a news release Friday saying it recommended Churchill Downs suspend racing as a joint investigation into the deaths continues.
Saturday’s card will go forward as scheduled however with Rattle N Roll favored in a field of eight Blame Stakes runners.
Trained by Kenny McPeek, Rattle N Roll is wheeling back off a Pimlico Special Stakes (G3) victory May 19. One month prior, the 4-year-old Connect colt won the Ben Ali Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Rattle N Roll has won seven of his 17 starts, including Keeneland’s 2021 Breeders’ Futurity (G1), and earned just shy of $1.37 million for owner Lucky Seven Stable. Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount.
Pioneer of Medina (4-1) finished third in the Ben Ali for trainer Todd Pletcher. In two prior starts at Churchill, the Grade 3 winner was first last November in an allowance race and 19th last May in the 2022 Kentucky Derby.
Masqueparade (5-1) seeks his first graded score since the 2021 Ohio Derby (G3) for trainer Al Stall Jr. He was sixth May 6 on the Kentucky Derby undercard in the Knicks Go Overnight Stakes.
Here is the field for the 2023 Blame Stakes (trainers and jockeys in parentheses) with morning-line odds:
1. Rattle N Roll (Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr.), 2-1
2. Masqueparade (Al Stall Jr., Corey Lanerie), 5-1
3. Barber Road (John Ortiz, Reylu Gutierrez), 6-1
4. Call Me Fast (Michael Puhich, Julien Leparoux), 6-1
5. Santin (Brendan Walsh, Tyler Gaffalione), 8-1
6. Happy American (Neil Pessin, James Graham), 8-1
7. Pioneer of Medina (Todd Pletcher, Luis Saez), 4-1
8. Cooke Creek (Jeremiah O’Dwyer, Adam Beschizza), 12-1
TimeformUS pace projections show Pioneer of Medina going out to the early lead under jockey Luis Saez. Favorite Rattle N Roll is projected to run seventh of eight in the opening stages.
Visit Horse Racing Nation’s free past performances page for more information on the Blame Stakes and other stakes events on Saturday’s schedule.
Churchill Downs links
Reinier Macatangay says that Call Me Fast deserves another chance from Blame Stakes bettors after his last loss to Rattle N Roll. Macatangay also recommends singles in other Churchill stakes.
One day before news broke of races moving to Ellis Park, Churchill Downs announced new safety measures that included ineligibility standards for poor performance.
“There can never be an overreaction of trying to keep horses safe,” trainer Dale Romans said of Churchill’s announced safety precautions, “so there is a proper reaction, and they’re going to do the things they think can help and what they think is best.” Hear more from Romans on the Ron Flatter Racing Pod.
A HISA news release details actions the federal agency has taken in response to horse deaths at Churchill Downs.
Florida racing officials allege that medication violations were found in three horses who raced in December and February for Todd Pletcher, trainer of Blame Stakes starter Pioneer of Medina.
Other Saturday stakes
Here is a look at other graded stakes taking place Saturday across North America. All post times are EDT.
2:45 p.m. – $225,000 Regret Stakes (G3), 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/8 miles (turf), Churchill Downs, FS2
Mission of Joy (9-5), a Grade 3 winner for trainer Graham Motion, runs over the same course where she was a third-place finisher May 5 on the Kentucky Oaks (G1) undercard in the Edgewood Stakes (G2). Jockey Tyler Gaffalione rides the Kitten’s Joy filly. Mark Casse trains Papilio (2-1), the Appalachian Stakes (G2) victor was fourth in the Edgewood, a head shy of Mission of Joy. Mrs. Astor (4-1) makes her graded bow off a fourth-place run in the Horseshoe Indianapolis Handicap for trainer Jonathan Thomas.
4:16 p.m. – $175,000 (about $130,000 U.S.) Royal North Stakes (G2), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 6 1/2 furlongs (turf), Woodbine, FanDuel TV
Our Flash Drive (9-5) is a Grade 2 victor who has collected four graded triumphs at Woodbine, including in the Whimsical Stakes (G3) on May 13. Casse and jockey Patrick Husbands team up with the 5-year-old Ghostzapper mare. Thomas trains stakes winner Bay Storm (3-1), who was second May 5 on the Oaks card in the Unbridled Sidney Stakes. Adaay in Asia (4-1) makes her North American bow for trainer Christophe Clement off a layoff that dates to a seventh-place finish Sept. 7 in a Group 3 race at Doncaster in the United Kingdom.
4:22 p.m. – $225,000 Shawnee Stakes (G3), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles, Churchill Downs, FS2
Frost Point (2-1) enters Churchill on a three-race winning streak for trainer Bill Mott, capped by a Doubledogdare Stakes (G3) score April 21 at Keeneland. Jockey Junior Alvarado has the mount on the 5-year-old Frosted mare. Steve Asmussen trains 2022 La Troienne Stakes (G1) heroine Pauline’s Pearl (5-2), who was sixth in the 2023 La Troienne on the Oaks card. The Bret Calhoun-trained Hidden Connection (9-2), a Grade 3 winner, was runner-up in the Doubledogdare.
4:48 p.m. – $150,000 (about $112,000 U.S.) Belle Mahone Stakes (G3), 4-and-up fillies and mares, 1 1/16 miles (all-weather track) Woodbine, FanDuel TV
Moira (2-5), the 2022 Queen’s Plate victor, runs for the first time since a fifth-place showing Nov. 5 at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf. Trainer Kevin Attard has tabbed jockey Kazushi Kimura to ride the 4-year-old Ghostzapper filly. Casse trains Souper Hoity Toity (5-1), a local Grade 3 winner who returns north of the U.S.-Canada border after running seventh April 1 at Gulfstream Park in the Sand Springs Stakes. Fellow Grade 3 winner Il Malocchio (8-1), trained by Martin Drexler, was fourth March 25 over Turfway Park’s synthetic track in the Latonia Stakes.
4:55 p.m. – $225,000 Arlington Stakes (G3), 4-and-up, 1 1/16 miles (turf), Churchill Downs, FS2
Set Piece (8-5), a dual Grade 2 winner for trainer Brad Cox, was third May 4 in the Opening Verse Stakes on Churchill’s “Thurby” card. Jockey Florent Geroux climbs aboard the 7-year-old Dansili gelding in this race that was run through 2021 at the now-shuttered Arlington Park. Motion trains Royal Patronage (3-1), whose seasonal bow was an allowance win April 20 at Keeneland. 2022 Belmont Derby Invitational (G1) victor Classic Causeway (4-1) switches back to turf after a sixth-place Oaklawn Handicap (G2) effort April 22 for trainer Kenny McPeek.
5:12 p.m. – $200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes (G2), 3-year-olds, about 1 1/8 miles (turf), Belmont Park, FS2
Far Bridge (9-5) made his stakes debut May 6 on the Kentucky Derby undercard, running second and missing the win by a nose in the American Turf Stakes (G2). Trainer Todd Pletcher and jockey Joel Rosario team up with the English Channel colt. Charlie Appleby trains 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Silver Knott (2-1), who was 11th on May 6 at Newmarket in the 2000 Guineas Stakes (G1). Kalik (7-2) took the win May 7 at Belmont in his first try against allowance flight for trainer Chad Brown.
7:44 p.m. – $200,000 Summertime Oaks (G2), 3-year-old fillies, 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita, FanDuel TV
The Alys Look (5-2) finished third in the Kentucky Oaks for Cox and then was moved by her owners to trainer Christopher Davis. The Connect filly makes her first start for her new barn Saturday under jockey Mike Smith. Bob Baffert trains Doinitthehardway (3-1), who aims for a stakes breakthrough after winning a local allowance race May 12 at seven furlongs. Anywho (3-1) is 2-for-2 for trainer John Sadler and also exits a Santa Anita allowance victory, hers coming back on March 27.