A Year Apart - By Esther Marr

 (Originally published in the May 28, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)   

Apart may still be overshadowed by a prominent former stablemate—champion Blame—but similarities between the two horses exist.

In addition to being trained by Al Stall Jr., both colts won the William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes (gr. III) on the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) undercard at Pimlico. Adele Dilschneider owns Apart and co-owns Blame with Claiborne Farm. Blame, who won the 2010 edition of the race, went on to win the Stephen Foster and Whitney handicaps (both gr. I), and Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) over champion Zenyatta.

Apart has some gigantic shoes to fill. Some may call the 4-year-old colt a late bloomer, as the May 21 Schaefer marked his first victory of the year. Now Stall can only hope the horse continues along the path Blame so valiantly tread.

Regardless of whether Apart is able to pull off a similar feat, it’s safe to say that Stall is enjoying the ride.

And who can blame him—no pun intended—as the trainer has succeeded with back-to-back graded stakes winners from the same connections in consecutive years.  

Stall said the pattern of Apart’s schedule isn’t particularly strategic beyond it making sense due to the circuit on which he customarily races. “After the Fair Grounds is over, if you have a handicap horse, the two obvious races to look at are the Alysheba (gr. III) on Oaks Day or the Schaefer,” he said. “I thought the race in New Orleans was a tough race (March 26, New Orleans Handicap, gr. II). He ran hard to be second against some really nice horses.

“I liked the two extra weeks the Schaefer gives you and the way it feeds you into the next round of races, which would be the Stephen Foster or the Cornhusker (gr. II) at Prairie Meadows—those are the two races we’re considering next.”

During his 3-year-old season, Blame won the Curlin Stakes at Saratoga, finished second in the Super Derby (gr. II), and won the Fayette Stakes and Clark Handicap (both gr. II). He had a six-month layoff before taking the Schaefer as a 4-year-old.

Apart, on the other hand, won last year’s Super Derby Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs, as well as the Super Derby and Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III). He finished unplaced in the Clark, however, and then went on to place three times in stakes company this year at Fair Grounds before winning the Schaefer.

Beyond the schedule similarities, Stall noted how Blame and Apart are very different horses. “There’s no comparison between the two—they’re different types, different sizes, different mindsets, different attitudes, obviously different talents,” he said. “They just happen to be from the same barn, one year apart.”

While they may have different assets, both Blame and Apart are by Claiborne Farm stallions. Blame, a fifth-generation homebred, is by Arch, out of the Seeking the Gold mare Liable and was raced by Dilschneider in partnership with the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm, where she has boarded mares for many years. Apart, on the other hand, is by Flatter, and is a second-generation homebred for Dilschneider.

Even though Apart may never live up to the fame of Blame, Stall praised him for being talented in his own right.

“He’s a great-looking horse and is perfectly sound. He’s got plenty of room to improve from a mental standpoint, however. He’s a little bit spotty, and he might be a little light. We’re hoping that as he matures into his 4-year-old year, all that goes away and he’s a little more straightforward. I think he’ll help himself by running nine and 10 furlongs; those distances should improve his trip. In between the distances and him maturing, he has a chance to move forward some.”

When asked if Apart could ever be as good as Blame, Stall answered cautiously.

“We don’t know yet,” he said simply. “When you have a horse that has won a grade II and a couple of grade IIIs, that’s considered a really nice horse. What makes a horse go from those kinds of races to the very elite where Blame was, I can’t put my finger on it—it’s just something the horse has to show you on his own in the afternoon. He obviously hasn’t shown that to us yet.

“My crew and I are much more relaxed with this horse than we were with Blame. But it’s fun...we’ve been down this road before, and we don’t feel as much pressure with him. We’ll just keep running him and see what happens.”

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