The only thing Blame needed to officially become a star was a grade I win. The son of Arch accomplished that June 12, overcoming a wide trip while running down pacesetter Battle Plan to score the $671,700 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) (VIDEO) by three-quarters of a length at Churchill Downs.
A 4-year-old homebred of Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Blame entered the Foster on a three-race win streak and having won five of his last six. The bay colt scored his third win in four starts at Churchill, the site of this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) and the year-end goal for the horse, confirmed trainer Al Stall Jr.
"He’s a big, sound horse, and knock on wood, we haven’t had any issues with him so far," Stall said. "We’ll look at the Whitney, Woodward and Jockey Club (Gold Cup) – something like that – with the ultimate goal being the (Breeders’ Cup) Classic. That’s why we gave him the six months off just to have a fresh horse the second half of the season, which we’re here now. I love when a plan comes together, which is very rare in horse racing. He’s a horse that is full of ability and full of desire, and he just ran them down.”
Blame was at a tactical disadvantage in the 1 1/8-mile Foster, having to break from post 11 with Garrett Gomez aboard while 9-5 favorite Battle Plan was able to use his speed to get an uncontested lead under Javier Castellano from post 2. Battle Plan, a winner of four straight including the March 27 New Orleans Handicap (gr. II) in his stakes debut last out, sailed through comfortable splits of :24.50, :48.72, and 1:12.63 with General Quarters
stalking the pace. Honest Man
and Duke of Mischief
were in the next group, while Blame raced mid-pack on the outside of Arson Squad
in a field of 11. Macho Again
, the 2009 Foster winner, was never a factor.
Battle Plan easily disposed of General Quarters approaching the quarter-pole and opened up a commanding four-length lead with a furlong remaining. But Blame, who made a four-wide entry into the lane, would not give in and found another gear mid-stretch. He caught Battle Plan in the final yards with a tremendous burst and sprinted to the wire in a time of 1:49.37 over a fast main track.
General Quarters was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third. Giant Oak
“I was wide going through both turns," Gomez said. "I tried to use him a little to try and get over in the first turn and as far as I could get was four wide. I didn’t want to take him back any further. My main concern was trying to come home off that pace. That’s what you’re always scared of and I think the farther the better with this horse.
"He does everything good. I was impressed with him when I rode him as a young horse. He’s coming around; he’s gotten a little more seasoning. He’s a true professional and a pleasure to be around. I’ll let him answer how good he can be.”
Blame entered the Foster off an impressive victory in the William Donald Schaeffer Stakes (gr. III) May 15 at Pimlico in his season debut after a nearly six-month layoff. He ended his 3-year-old season by winning the Fayette Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland and defeating older horses in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill in November. He became the first horse to win the Foster the following spring from a Clark triumph since Saint Liam in 2004-05. Others to do it were Hopeful Word in 1985-86 and No Marker in 1989-90.
In the beginning of his 3-year-old season, Blame was being pointed to the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) in hopes of making the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), but a severe abscess on his hind foot sidelined him for nearly eight months.
Now 7-1-2 from 10 starts and a five-time stakes winner, Blame became a millionaire in the Foster. He has earned $1,068,214. He is out of the Seeking the Gold mare Liable.
The winner paid $9.80, $4.20, and $3. The exacta (11-2) returned $30 and the trifecta (11-2-6) was $129.60.
Demarcation was fifth, followed by Arson Squad, A. U. Miner, Duke of Mischief, Honest Man, Macho Again, and No Advantage.