Blame's Game

At the end of the afternoon of a perfect summer day, a colt named Blame assured the followers of Saratoga Race Course that it would remain the "Graveyard of Favorites." 

As the 7-2 second choice in a compact field of six over-achievers, the dependable 4-year-old son of Arch owned by Claiborne Farms and Adele Dilschneider turned his three-length deficit at the eighth pole into a narrow Gr. 1 $750,000 Whitney Handicap victory over the 1-2 Quality Road.

Jockey J.R.Velasquez, on the lead aboard Quality Road for almost the entire race, saw the writing on the wall as early as the quarter pole.  He looked long and hard over his left shoulder to see who was there coming at him.  It was the wrong side to look, as on his left side both Blame and Musket Man were advancing.  Quality Road should have had plenty left in the tank, thanks to his leisurely pace.  But Blame caught him anyway.

It was a Whitney that included four handicap division horses of very high caliber. Quality Road, Musket Man, Blame and Haynesfield had a combined winning percentage of 70 percent.  Three Whitney starters had won their last three races; two had won their last four. There were more Beyer speed figures over 100 in the PPs than you'd see at an NBA basketball game.

Blame's game was to run 12s. Nevertheless, few people in attendance expected that to add up to victory. Bridge jumpers poured cash into the show pool.  Of the $808, 560 placed there, more than $630,000 of it was wagered on Quality Road.  

It seemed there was something thrilling to see all day long. In the co-featured Gr.1 Test Stakes, Champagne D'Oro lived up to Eric Guillot's braggadocio. The trainer loud-mouthed his way through a local morning TV talk show, yet his filly's behavior on the racetrack in the late afternoon is what really spoke volumes.

The sixth race was a study in chaos. The favorite Justin Phillip never got to run in the 6-1/2 furlong sprint for 2-year-old maidens because he broke loose from the hold of his handlers and dashed off before he could walk in the post parade.  Thatcatismine reared at the start and dumped his rider. Tiz Blessed won and might have won anyway had none of this happened. He's a nice colt by Tiznow. 

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sent out his 4000th winner as Sequoia Racing's Mystic won the seventh. The Unbridled Song's 4-year-old colt demonstrated why Mott is the ultimate pro. Mystic, reserved in midpack early on, was bumped several times before swinging three wide for his stretch run and still won. Other than that, there was very little action - Not!

On Sunday, fans will receive a Rachel Alexandra ball cap with each paid admission. Around these parts, Jess Jackson's filly remains "Queen of the Turf" - not Zenyatta.

Vic Zast writes a column for each Monday. He has written the Saratoga Diary for in five of the last six years.

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