Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm’s Blame outdueled fellow 3-year-old Misremembered by a neck in a heated stretch run and fended off a late charge from Einstein (BRZ) to win Friday’s 135th running of the $460,600 Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade II) at Churchill Downs.
Ridden by Jamie Theriot for trainer Al Stall Jr., Blame covered the 1 1/8 miles over a fast main track in 1:49.39 in winning for the fifth time in eight starts. Blame carried 118 pounds, five fewer than race high weight Einstein.
Longshot Anarko (CHI) led the field of 14 through early fractions of :23.69, :47.60 and 1:12.16 with Etched, Kiss the Kid and Timber Reserve in closest pursuit. Victor Espinoza had Misremembered in the clear in fifth and made a move toward the lead leaving the far turn with Anak Nakal and Joe Bravo to his outside.
Theriot followed those two and was five-wide at the top of the stretch. Misremembered dove to the rail with Anak Nakal and Blame to his outside. Anak Nakal backed out of the duel at the sixteenth pole only to have Einstein appear on the scene and have his late charge fall a neck short of Misremembered.
It was three-quarters of a length back to Giant Oak, who was followed in order by Anak Nakal, Dubious Miss, Bullsbay, Demarcation, favored Macho Again, Kiss the Kid, You and I Forever, Anarko, Etched and Timber Reserve.
Blame returned $10.80, $6 and $4.20 as the second choice. Misremembered paid $10.20 and $6.40 with Einstein, ridden by Rajiv Maragh, paying $4.60 to show.
The victory was worth $259,872 and increased Blame’s career bankroll to $616,747. It was the second consecutive Grade II victory for Blame, a homebred son of Arch, who took the Fayette at Keeneland on Oct. 31.
The 21-day Fall Meet concludes Saturday with the 12-race “Stars of Tomorrow II” card exclusively for 2-year-olds. The program begins at 11:30 a.m. (all times ET) and will be highlighted by the 66th running of the Golden Rod (GII) for fillies that goes as the ninth race at approximately 3:28 p.m. and the 83rd running of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) that goes as the 11th race at approximately 4:27 p.m.
AL STALL JR., trainer of BLAME, winner: “What you see on paper is about what we see on a day-to-day basis. He just continues to get better and better. He’s a wonderful looking horse with a tremendous pedigree. We’ve just spaced his races and taken our time with him and pointed to the end of the year and a 4-year-old type of campaign. He’s shown up every time.”
Q: Your thoughts on Blame’s determination in the stretch?" Jamie (Theriot) said he was waiting all the way. Once he gets to the front, he kind of throws his ears up and says ‘OK, what’s next?’ He was on the deceleration a little bit on the way down the lane. But he finally dug in when [Bob] Baffert’s horse (Misremembered) came back at him.”
Q: Any thoughts on what might be next? “He’ll winter at Fair Grounds and the Breeders’ Cup is here next year. He could do a number of things. He’s done everything; he’s won on [synthetic surfaces] and he’s run well on the dirt. It’ll be fun talking about it.”
Q: How big was this effort today? “You’re asking a lot for a young horse against the elders. We think he’s a wonderful horse. We’ve always thought he’d be a better 4-year-old. To get this out of the way and run the way he did, to the way he idled once he made the lead – he looked like he had more in the tank – we’re very excited. He’s done everything we’ve ever asked of him . . . and then some!”
Q: What was your confidence level coming into this race? “We were pretty confident in this horse. He’s a fresh horse and, knock on wood, he’s very sound. He had a minor setback where we missed seven months but that was strictly a foot issue and nothing boney. So, I thought we had the right horse in the right spot but it’s racing.”
JAMIE THERIOT, jockey of BLAME, winner: “He took me to the lead well within himself. Once he gets in front he starts to look around and loses a little bit of interest. I felt the horse on the inside start coming to me, and my horse started to dig in when he felt the pressure. He kept giving me more. We could have went around again and the outcome wouldn’t have changed. That’s how he does it. This was a very good field of horses he beat today. You will probably be seeing a lot of him as a 4-year-old.”
Q: How does it feel to win the Clark Handicap with your first mount? “This is a great accomplishment for me. I have been here for three years and this is my first mount in the Clark Handicap. It feels great to be able to get the job done for these connections.”
BOB BAFFERT, trainer of MISREMEMBERED, second: “He ran a good race. He was there – he just came up short and got beat by a nice horse. We’re just mad that we didn’t bet that good 3-year-old exacta there.”
Q: How good can Misremembered be? “He’s very immature still. He’s just filling out still. So I wanted a chance here on the dirt with him. We’re going to freshen him up and run him in that series of 4-year-old races, the San-this-and-that.”
Q: It looks like 2010 will be a good year to know that your horse likes Churchill Downs, with the Stephen Foster and the Breeders’ Cup Classic on the schedule … “It’s good to know that they like Churchill, but I’m stuck in second here. I don’t know why I can’t win these big ones anymore. But I didn’t get beat by Calvin Borel, so I don’t feel as bad.”
VICTOR ESPINOZA, jockey on MISREMEMBERED, second: “He ran great. He’d been doing so well since his last race that I expected him to run big.”
Q: How did you get to the rail with him from the 12-hole? “I tried to save as much ground as I could. The winner kind of moved a little earlier than I wanted, but I had to go. He ran great – he’s a nice horse.”
Q: Did you think you had a chance to catch the winner? “You know what, for a minute I thought he was going to come back to us, but he ran his race.”
HELEN PITTS-BLASI, trainer of EINSTEIN, third: “He ran fantastic. The way it panned out turning for home they kind of stacked up on him, but when he did get through he gave it his all, as usual. He ran his heart out today. I can’t complain. Rajiv (Maragh) rode a great race. He didn’t win, but it was good.
“It’s good when he can get that jump on them turning for home, but Rajiv said they just stacked up and that was kind of the way it played out.”
Will this be the last roundup for him? “I don’t know. We’ll have to see what Mr. (Frank) Stronach says.”
RAJIV MARAGH, rider on EINSTEIN, third: “The only way I would have been able to go outside earlier was to go early at the half-mile and he would have been six-wide. I was never going to do that, but I didn’t think we could win if I did that. So I just waited patiently for it to open up, and when it did he shot through there and put it all out. But the other horse (Blame) got a little jump."
Q: You had a lot to do from that outside post… “We got a great trip going into the first turn and I was able to drop over into a nice spot. The race was really unfolding nicely except for the horses stacking up a little bit in front of me. Other than that, he finished up real well.”
CHRIS BLOCK, trainer of GIANT OAK, fourth: “We knew this race was going to be an acid test, and we’re real pleased. The only real excuse I can give him is the start. He kind of hopped out of there and probably cost himself a couple of lengths and a little bit more forward positioning. Other than that, he was following Blame all the way around the far turn there and when they came off the turn he had dead aim on any of those in front of him. Shaun (Bridgmohan) said, ‘I thought I had ‘em turning for home.’ But I said, ‘You know Shaun, it wasn’t like you’re running against some second-rate group – you were trying to run down some really good horses.’ So I’ve just got to say we got outrun from the head of the lane to the wire, but we’re real pleased with where he finished. We really are.”
Q: With some big races at Churchill Downs next year, including the Grade I Stephen Foster and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, it’s a good year to have an improving horse that you know likes the dirt at Churchill Downs …“That’s why we’re here, to be honest with you. I told the owner the Clark was going to be tough, but we need to find out where we stand with this guy in the future because Churchill offers some nice races here and we really need to think about running him in the Clark and seeing where we stand afterward. So we’re really tickled with the way he went.”
SHAUN BRIDGMOHAN, rider of GIANT OAK, fourth: “He hopped a little bit leaving the starting gate and that prevented him from getting a closer position, but I think he ran pretty good. At the top of the stretch I thought I really had a good shot at getting ‘em. I followed the winner and angled out and he finished up pretty well.
“I think his future is still ahead of him. I think with time and maturity he’s going to be a nice little horse. He stepped up to the plate and ran with older horses today, so I think he’s got a good future.”