Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) favorite Blame arrived in New York this afternoon without incident and is in his stall at Belmont Park, trainer Al Stall Jr. said Oct. 1.
Blame, unbeaten in three starts this season, shipped into Belmont one day later than expected due to inclement weather that forced his Sept. 30 flight to be canceled. Also arriving on the flight from Kentucky was Paddy O'Prado , the morning-line favorite for the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational (gr. IT). Both races are on Saturday, Oct. 2.
There have been strong winds and heavy rain in New York for the past 48 hours, which forced Belmont to cancel its cards the last two days.
Blame, who enters off a victory in the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap (gr. I), has been at Keeneland for the past month. Stall said his Friday arrival may have worked out to his advantage.
“He arrived at about 1:30 today and is doing fine,” the trainer said. “He actually trained this morning at Keeneland before he left and was able to stay on his regular routine. That was probably to our advantage since he wouldn’t have worked over the sloppy track at Belmont.”
There is not expected to be rain on Saturday at Belmont.
Blame will contest 1 1/4 miles for the first time in the JCGC, where he will likely face seven rivals. Though the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) on Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs is his ultimate goal, Stall said he will have Blame geared up to run his best race on Saturday. Without a lot of speed in the race, Blame could be closer to the pace than normal.
“He’ll be at full tilt for the race,” said Stall, who will have Garrett Gomez as his rider. “We’re going a mile and quarter, so handicapping 101 would tell you he’ll probably be a little closer (to the pace) than if we were going a mile and an eighth. If they go :24 and change or :25, he’ll be very close. If they go :23, he won’t be as close.”
A homebred of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Blame is 8-1-2 from 11 starts with earnings of $1,518,214. He is by Arch, out of the Seeking the Gold mare Liable.
Paddy O’Prado, owned in partnership by Jerry Crawford’s Donegal Racing and trained by Dale Romans, carries a three-race win streak on grass into the Turf Classic, including his first grade I score in the Secretariat Stakes at Arlington Park on Aug. 21. With all of the recent rain, the Belmont turf will likely be softer than usual on Saturday.
“The trip was fine once we got off the ground,” Romans said. “He’s done well on everything he’s run on, including several different types of turf courses, so I don’t think it matters. We expect to win, that’s what we’re here for.”