05/13/2010 11:00PM

Blame launches his campaign in Schaefer


BALTIMORE - Blame, one of the unheralded members of the 3-year-old class of 2009, could be a significant player in the older horse division of 2010. After nearly six months away from the races, Blame kicks off his 4-year-old campaign in Saturday's Grade 3, $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Stakes at Pimlico.

A field of nine was entered for the Schaefer, run at 1 1/16 miles, including last year's upset winner No Advantage.

The Triple Crown series was over by the time Blame hit the races as a 3-year-old. But he won 4 of 6 starts in the second half of 2009, highlighted by a victory against 13 horses in the Grade 2 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27. He won by a neck over fellow 3-year-old Misremembered - this year's Santa Anita Handicap winner - but the margin could have been greater, said his trainer, Al Stall.

"He made the lead really handy and he just waited; he just literally stopped," said Stall, who trains Blame for Adele Dilschneider and Claiborne Farm. "It looked like Misremembered was trying to come back, but that wasn't happening."

Stall mapped out Blame's training schedule to make either the Alysheba at Churchill on April 30 or the Schaefer the launching pad for the season. Due to weather and track conditions at Fair Grounds, Blame had an interrupted winter training schedule.

"He was ready to run, but I didn't want to get him ready to run and run him," Stall said. "I wanted to get him ready to run and then get him really bouncing and then run; that's why we ended up here."

Blame has lost three races in his career - his first start and twice when he was returning from a layoff. Could he possibly need this race?

"Maybe that could be the case, but hopefully it's not," Stall said.

Due to the quirky conditions of the race, Blame carries 118 pounds, six less than nongraded stakes winners Understatement and Indian Dance.

During Aqueduct's inner-track meet, Understatement ran races fast enough to put him in the upper echelon of the handicap division. But in his last start, he finished a well-beaten fifth in the Charles Town Classic. Trainer Todd Pletcher said the horse "was a little headstrong" when used early by jockey David Cohen in the race. Jockey John Velazquez will likely attempt to have Understatement stalk the speedy I Know Why.

The Grade 1 winner Bullsbay will try to bounce back after a last-place finish in the Alysheba Stakes two weeks ago at Churchill. Bullsbay won the Grade 1 Whitney following a 10th-place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup. He also ran a bang-up second in the John Campbell two weeks after being eased in the Donn Handicap.

"The race in Kentucky is a complete head-scratcher," trainer Graham Motion said. "Maybe it's just an older horse being a bit rusty."

Julien Leparoux rides Bullsbay from the rail.

Flying Private, second in the Alysheba and fourth in last year's Preakness, and Indian Dance are other contenders in this field.