09/11/2010 10:25AM

Blame thriving at laid-back Keeneland

Audrey C. Crosby
Blame, shown at Keeneland on Friday, is on target for the Oct. 2 Jockey Club Gold Cup.

Blame has reacclimated to his surroundings at Keeneland and remains firmly on target for the Oct. 2 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, trainer Al Stall Jr. said early Saturday from the Lexington, Ky., track.

By the time he departs by plane for New York on Sept. 30, Blame will have had four straight Sunday workouts over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland, the second of which was scheduled for this Sunday, said Stall.

“This will be his fourth work since he won the Whitney,” said Stall. “He had two before we left Saratoga, and this will be his second here. Then he’ll have another strong work [Sept. 19], then a final blowout [Sept. 26] before we leave.”

Bred and owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Blame has ascended to the top of the North American handicap division by winning his last three starts, and last five overall, with his last two races being the Grade 1 Stephen Foster in June and the Grade 1 Whitney on Aug. 7 at Saratoga. The 4-year-old Arch colt has earned more than $1.5 million from his 11 career starts.

Stall said he couldn’t be any happier with Blame, who is stabled in one of the Rice Road barns on the far perimeter of the racetrack grounds. With most of the Keeneland barns currently occupied by sales yearlings, there currently is a minimum of morning training activity on the track.

“It’s like a country club for us here right now, very exclusive, very nice,” said Stall. “This is his home track. He’s happy here. The Poly is in great shape, which I think has something to do with the time of year and the cooler weather. It’s got some bounce to it. I’m real happy with how everything’s going for us.”

The Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup will be the final prep for Blame before the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Among the other possible starters being mentioned for the 1 1/4-mile race are Rail Trip and the one-two finishers in the Travers, Afleet Express and Fly Down. Meanwhile, New York-based Quality Road, whom Blame narrowly defeated in the Whitney, is headed straight to the $5 million BC Classic after easily winning the Sept. 4 Woodward at Saratoga.