07/27/2010 2:39PM

Blame does it nice and easy in Saratoga workout

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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Blame didn’t break any stopwatches, nor would people likely have even picked up their heads to watch if they hadn’t known the horse in the blue saddle towel with jockey Garrett Gomez aboard breezing immediately after the renovation break here Tuesday was the second choice for next week’s Grade 1 Whitney. But Blame’s easy half-mile work in 49.76 seconds had his trainer, Al Stall Jr., smiling from ear to ear as his star cooled out at the barn about an hour later.

Blame, winner of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster in his last start, appeared to be doing little more than galloping when he posted fractions of 24.50 and 37.20 seconds before going out fiveeighths in 1:02.45 on Tuesday. The work was his first since arriving from Kentucky late last week.

“That’s pretty much him when he works by himself,” said Stall. “It was perfect. The gallop-out was the best part. I didn’t want him doing any more than that. He got his head lifted at Keeneland when going six furlongs and galloping out seven-eighths in company before he left Kentucky. He came back as mellow as a horse can be this morning. I’m very happy.”

Blame, who won his only previous start at Saratoga when he took the Curlin Stakes at 3, will bring a four-race winning streak into the Whitney. He also won the Grade 2 Fayette and Clark and Grade 3 William D. Schaeffer before overcoming a tough post and unlucky trip to become a Grade 1 winner for the first time in the Stephen Foster.

Stall said at the moment he knows of only three other confirmed starters for the Whitney. Aside from Blame that group includes Quality Road, who will start as the heavy favorite, Haynesfield, and Mine That Bird.

“At least with a short field we won’t have to worry about drawing post 11 again,” Stall quipped.

Stall said Blame would have one more work before the Whitney, which will come next Monday, weather permitting.

“I’ll get him a little racier and let him eyeball a workmate next time,” said Stall. “Although he probably won’t go any faster than he did this morning.”

Discreetly Mine zips along

In direct contrast to Blame’s work was the move turned in by Discreetly Mine just moments later. Discreetly Mine, winner of the Grade 3 Jersey Shore three weeks ago, zipped a half-mile in 46.57 seconds, completing his final three-eighths in 34.71 while never asked to exert himself at any point. Discreetly Mine will make his next start on Monday in the Grade 2 Amsterdam.

“It was faster than we set out to do but he did it easily,” said Todd Pletcher, who trains Discreetly Mine for the E Paul Robsham Stables. “He had his ears pricked coming to the wire, which you don’t see often when horses go that fast. He seems to be in good form. His last race was very good. He had to wait for a spot a little while then finished well after Johnny [Velazquez] was able to tip him out. That was the first time he backed up to six furlongs since the Spectacular Bid and it really looks like [sprinting] might be his niche.”

Pletcher will also be in action out of town this weekend when sending Exhi to Mountaineer Park for the West Virginia Derby. Exhi, who shared the bullet work of 58.76 seconds on Monday’s tab along with workmate Quality Road, has won his last four starts, all over artificial surfaces.

“If you watched that work, it would give you confidence he’ll handle the dirt just fine in West Virginia,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher was also pleased with Checklist’s three-quarter-length allowance win here Monday, his second tally in five starts this season. Checklist led throughout before holding off a late surge from Endless Circle.

“I thought it was a big effort,” said Pletcher. “When he’s on the lead he’s tough to get by, and yesterday was one of those days.”

Piece of cake for Mott?

One of the most potent handicapping angles, but one that works just one day per year, will be in effect here Thursday. Betting horses trained by Bill Mott on his birthday.

Mott has won a race on his birthday 11 of the last 18 years. Two of those 18 years were dark days.

Mott has five horses entered on Thursday: Vision d’Amour in the third race, Devil by Design in the fourth, Gold Collecton (main track only) in the fifth, first-time starter Rise to Glory in the seventh, and Ad Infinitum, an also-eligible in the finale.

“Originally I thought I was only going to have one horse in Thursday but because some of my races didn’t fill earlier in the week, I’ve got five,” said Mott. “I just don’t know if I have the right ones in. I guess by sheer numbers I’ve got a good chance to keep the tradition going.”

Mott could get a couple of nice birthday gifts over the weekend when he sends out Proviso as one of the top choices in Saturday’s Grade 1 Diana and Unrivaled Belle as the heavy favorite in the Grade 1 Ruffian the following afternoon.

Unrivaled Belle looks to get back on the winning track and notch her first Grade 1 victory after finishing second behind Life At Ten in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps last month at Belmont. Unrivaled Belle tuned up for the assignment by working four furlongs in 48.80 seconds over the Oklahoma training track on Tuesday.

“She worked good this morning and galloped well,” said Mott. “She’s done well since her last start, and we’ve also schooled her a couple of times in the paddock and it seems like she’s okay. That’s always been an issue with her. Sometimes she can be like a milk cow in there, and other times she has a personality completely the opposite.”

Trainer Bobby Ribaudo had his two stars, Qualia and Grand Couturier, out to work before the break on Tuesday. Qualia, third beaten a head making her graded stakes debut in the Grade 3 Bed o’ Roses, cruised an easy half-mile in 50.12. Multiple Grade 1 winner Grand Couturier also went a slow half in 50.42 seconds.