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Anne M. Eberhardt

Blame in 'Maintenance' Work for Classic

Arch colt works half-mile in :49 4/5 in preparation for Classic.

Adele B. Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame  kicked off Breeders’ Cup week at Churchill Downs with a half-mile breeze in :49 4/5 the morning of Nov. 1.

With the main track bathed in lights, the son of Arch--Liable, by Seeking the Gold, was out on the track with some of the first horses to train shortly after the track opened as he went through his final paces for the Nov. 6 Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). With jockey Garrett Gomez aboard, Blame had fractional splits of :13 1/5, :25 1/5 and :37 1/5. Following the half-mile work, the 4-year-old colt galloped out five furlongs in 1:03 1/5.

"It was just a little maintenance work," trainer Al Stall Jr. said. "Garrett said he started off very comfortable, and he came home really nice. He said when he pulled him up he let out a big squeal and a big buck, and he turned around and came home. That’s what he does."

Stall said one reason he waited until Monday of Breeders’ Cup week to work Blame was because of the maintenance on the main track during the opening day card of the Churchill meet the previous day.

"I thought the track would be in pristine shape after a full day of harrowing and watering," he said. "I thought the track looked really good."

Stall said he believes it's appropriate so much of the attention for the Classic is focused on Zenyatta, last year’s Classic winner who is seeking to end her career undefeated in 20 starts.

"They’ve got to hang their hat on somebody, and Zenyatta is the obvious one to do that with, with her record and her style and personality," Stall said. "I think it’s the right way to go. I am glad we are considered one of the horses that make (the Classic) a tough race. I'm happy to just be a player in the race with a 5-1 horse instead of a 50-1 shot.

"She’s in the race; we’ll be in the race. I just want him to go in there in top condition and run his ‘A’ race. If he does that and wins, that’s great. If he does that and loses, that’s fine, too.

"I don’t even think about Zenyatta that much. But if you really thought about it, what would help her in the race would help us, too. She needs pace and for horses in front to come back, so I guess I am kind of rooting for Zenyatta."

With the major work over, Stall said he just wants his horse to stay sound and be ready for the Classic. "Like Charlie Whittingham told me one time, 'They are like strawberries and can spoil overnight.' "

Stall said Blame tried to bite the lead pony that accompanied him to the track, which is "one of the indicators that he is good and sharp."

Bred in Kentucky by Dilschneider and Claiborne, Blame has won or placed in all 12 starts, with eight wins to his credit and earnings of $1,666,214. After winning the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill earlier this year, the colt won the Whitney (gr. I) at Saratoga and finished second to Classic contender Haynesfield in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) in his last start.