Following his thrilling victory over Quality Road in the Whitney Handicap (gr. I), Blame will be pointed to the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) at Belmont Park for his next start Oct. 2, trainer Al Stall Jr. reported Aug. 8.
“Seth Hancock (of co-owner Claiborne Farm) was here this morning and we firmed things up," Stall said the morning after Blame scored by a head in the Whitney. "The Jockey Club Gold Cup will be his next race. It will be that, and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I). We’ll take him back to Keeneland in a couple of weeks, let him train there, and bring him back up to Belmont.”
Both the Jockey Club Gold Cup and the Breeders' Cup Classic are contested at 1 1/4 miles.
Stall said he watched the Whitney replay several times in the Saratoga Room at the track after the race, which was Blame’s fifth straight victory, and was happy to report that “he won every time.”
“I thought if he were in striking distance at the three-eighths pole, he had a shot,” said Stall. “He really does have a great punch from the three-eighths pole, and Garrett (Gomez) was just reeling Quality Road in, reeling him in. Inside the eighth pole, you could see he had a little more momentum than Quality Road.”
Stall said Blame, a son of Archalso owned by Adele Dilschneider, came out of the race in good shape.
Quality Road, who set moderate fractions and was overtaken in the final strides by Blame to just miss, also came out of the Whitney in fine shape, trainer Todd Pletcher said. He'll regroup and try again in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga Sept. 4.
“It was a tough beat,” Pletcher said of the Whitney. “He was basically alone on the lead. He’s generally a little more focused when he has a target. There wasn’t anyone eager to take the lead yesterday, so we kind of inherited it. He’s one of those horses that does things so easily, he was kind of waiting on the competition.”
While disappointed with the loss, Quality Road’s first in four starts this year, Pletcher said that Edward Evans' 4-year-old Elusive Quality colt remains on schedule.
“If he continues to do well, I see no reason to change our plans,” he said of the 1 1/8-mile Woodward. “It was still a very good effort and we lost to a very good horse.”
Pletcher added he was looking forward to a rematch with Blame down the road.
“I probably think more about the losses than I do about the wins, but at the end of the day we still have goals -- the Woodward and hopefully the Breeders’ Cup Classic if he goes,” he said. “He got beat spotting an extremely good horse five pounds. Not taking anything away from Blame; we look forward to trying him at equal weights.”
Musket Man finished a game third though he didn’t get his preferred trip in the Whitney, and trainer Derek Ryan was pleased with the colt’s effort.
“He looks pretty good (this morning), no problems,” Ryan said. “(Pressing the pace), that’s not his style. He likes to sit back a little bit. When they’re going that slow, if he hadn’t pressed (Quality Road), the other horse wouldn’t have won either. He was closer than he ever has been in any of his races.”
Runner-up to Quality Road in the Metropolitan Mile (gr. I) at Belmont Park May 31, the Whitney was Musket Man's first start longer than a mile since he finished third in the 2009 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) behind eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. The 4-year-old son of Yonaguska, owned by Eric Fein and Vic Carlson, went to the sidelines after the Preakness and did not race for nearly nine months.
“We’ll probably keep him going long now for the rest of the year,” Ryan said. “One of these days he’s going to get a legitimate pace and a race will set up for him. I’ll probably either run him back here (in the Woodward) or wait for the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), then the Breeders’ Cup.”