Heartbreaking Thriller: Blame Beats Zenyatta
Zenyatta's history-making winning streak ended by a short head to Blame in a thrilling Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) (VIDEO) under the lights at Churchill Downs Nov. 6. Blame is a homebred son of Arch for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider.
“We made a game plan a year ago to point for this, and usually when you make plans like that in the horse business, it never works out. You don’t even make the race,” said Seth Hancock, president of Claiborne Farm, which celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. “But then the closer we got to the race, we realized we were going to make it and knew who we were running against but just were filled with anticipation of what might be. And then to see it come true is a feeling I can’t describe.”
With the $4,545,000 Classic, Blame won his third grade I race of the year. Earlier he won the Stephen Foster Handicap and Whitney Handicap, and he finished second in the grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup. Blame will now be retired to stud at Claiborne with a lifetime record of nine wins in 13 starts, six of the wins in graded stakes. He earned $2.7 million for the victory and retires with a career bankroll of $4,368,214.
Trainer Al Stall Jr. said he was extremely proud of Blame’s performance but took nothing away from Zenyatta.
“In defeat she didn’t lose anything,” Stall said. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody criticizing anything she’s ever done, much less today. We were fortunate to have the right horse on the right day at the right time.”
Blame had the perfect trip, according to jockey Garrett Gomez. He said the colt broke running and found a nice pocket going through the first turn. Blame traveled smoothly down the backside, then started to pick it up at the 5/16ths pole. He ran into tight quarters leaving the quarter pole but squeezed between Lookin At Lucky and Etched as Espoir City fell back. He led by a half-length over Lookin At Lucky at the furlong marker. From there, his only competion was Zenyatta roaring toward him on the outside.
“You know, I just tried to stay out of (Blame's) way and keep trying to point him in the right direction,” Gomez said. “I mean he was just absolutely marvelous today. Probably the best race he’s ever run for me.”
Gomez has ridden him for all of his five starts this year.
As far as Hancock is concerned the result sewed up 2010 Horse of the Year honors for Blame.
Asked to comment on who should win the honor during the post-race news conference, he responded, "Well, I thought the battle for Horse of the Year was fought about a half hour ago, and Blame won it. I mean, she's a great horse, Zenyatta is. But she had her shot to get by, and she didn't do it. So I don't think you can vote for her. I don't know who else you could vote for.
"I mean, he's won three great ones," Hancock added. "He's taken his show on the road. He's done everything that's been asked of him. I can't believe that he wouldn't be Horse of the Year. "
Fly Down and rider Julien Leparoux finished third by 3 1/2 lengths after getting checked in the first turn when Musket Man and Rajiv Muragh came over on him. He then came four wide out of the second turn. Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Lookin At Lucky finished a neck farther back in fourth.
“The horse had plenty of run,” said Fly Down’s trainer Nick Zito. “Obviously, he’s (Leparoux) upset about it because that cost him a lot. He was in a nice position, he was settling and he had to lose all that ground. In a big race like that, you can’t give Zenyatta and Blame whatever.”
After a sluggish beginning, Zenyatta had just one horse beaten at the quarter pole. Smith had dropped her to the inside and she was forced to steady briefly and alter course behind the retreating Quality Road. Once in the stretch, she angled outside for a clear shot and closed in her patented wicked style. The difference this time was that Blame held on with determination.
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A tearful and emotional Mike Smith, Zenyatta’s rider during all but three of her 19 consecutive victories, said after the race he blamed himself for the loss.
“I really felt I had the best horse today,” he said. “If I have to blame anyone, it would be me. I wish I had been in the race a little earlier. I think she ranks up there with the greatest of all time. And to come up a nose short...”
Smith said though Zenyatta had raced on the dirt previously, she seemed to be particularly bothered by the dirt being kicked back in her face.
“It just took her a while to get used to it,” he said. “Like I said, maybe I should have done a few things differently. I wish I (voice breaking)...if I had to do it all over again, I would have, you know. It hurts more than you...than I can explain, just because it was my fault. She should have won, and it hurts.”
“We’re real proud of our girl," said owner Jerry Moss, who brought Zenyatta out of a brief retirement following her win in last year's Classic to campaign in 2010. "She tried hard and ran a tremendous race only to get beat by the slimmest of margins. We congratulate Blame and his connections. He beat a superstar.”
Zenyatta won five grade I stakes this year.
The final time was 2:02.28. Blame paid $12.40, $4.40, and $3.80. Zenyatta paid $3.60 and $2.80. Fly Down paid $8.60.
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