Rupp Racing’s Owendale flew late down the middle of the Churchill Downs stretch and ran down longshot Everfast to win Saturday’s inaugural running of the $100,000 Blame presented by Norton Healthcare by a half-length. Silver Dust was another neck back in third.

Trained by Brad Cox and ridden by Florent Geroux, Owendale covered the one-turn mile on a fast track in 1:34.74. It was his first start of the year after winning the Lexington (Grade III), Ohio Derby (GIII) and Oklahoma Derby (GIII) at age 3. He also finished third in last year’s Preakness (GI) and was second to Tom’s d’Etat against elders in November’s Clark (GI) at Churchill Downs.

“He ran very impressively today,” Geroux said. “This isn’t his best distance and not the end goal but it was very exciting to see him return to the races off of a layoff like that.”

Backyard Heaven broke alertly and led field of 12 older horses down the backstretch through swift fractions of :22.74 and :45.36 with Diamond King in close pursuit and Owendale near the rear. Diamond King took over into the turn after six furlongs in 1:09.88 but Everfast surged to his inside at the head of the stretch while Silver Dust made his move from the outside. At the top of the lane Owendale had just three horses beat but he finished with a determined late rush down the center of the track to spoil the chances of Everfast and Silver Dust.

The victory was worth $57,660 for owner Jim Rupp and increased Owendale’s bankroll to $1,129,185 with a record of 6-2-2 in 15 starts.

“It was great to see him return like that going a one-turn mile,” Cox said. “This definitely puts him in a position to try more graded stakes later on in the year at a better distance going two turns. I thought he was breezing well enough that he would return to the races sharply and ended up doing so. We’ll look like races like the Stephen Foster for his next start but he will like the two-turns better.”

Owendale is a 4-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Into Mischief out of the Bernardini mare Aspen Light.

Owendale returned $9, $5.20 and $4 as the 7-2 second betting choice. Everfast, ridden by Joel Rosario, paid $20 and $9.60 with Silver Dust in third under Adam Beschizza and paying $6 to show.

It was another 2 ¾ lengths back to Mr. Money, who was followed in order by Snapper Sinclair, 2-1 favorite Global Campaign, Diamond King, Backyard Heaven, Alwaysmining, Extraordinary Jerry, Discreet Lover and Long Range Toddy. Bourbon Resolution and American Anthem were scratched.

The Blame, named after the 2010 Eclipse Award-winning older horse that handed Zenyatta her lone defeat in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs, could serve as a steppingstone to the $500,000 Stephen Foster (Grade II) for 4-year-olds and up at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday, June 27.


BLAME QUOTES

JOCKEY FLORENT GEROUX ON OWENDALE (winner): “He ran very impressively today. This isn’t his best distance and not the end goal but it was very exciting to see him return to the races off of a layoff like that.”

TRAINER BRAD COX ON OWENDALE (winner): “It was great to see him return like that going a one-turn mile. This definitely puts him in a position to try more graded stakes later on in the year at a better distance going two turns. I thought he was breezing well enough that he would return to the races sharply and ended up doing so. We’ll look like races like the Stephen Foster for his next start but he will like the two-turns better.”

JOCKEY JOEL ROSARIO ON EVERFAST (second): “He ran a great effort. We got into a position up the rail and he rallied very well.”

Owendale
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