02/24/2010 1:00AM

Blame the Wine in at right level


ARCADIA, Calif. - Blame the Wine has bounced between $10,000 and $25,000 claimers, with an occasional start in an optional claimer, in the 11 months since she was claimed for $12,500 by trainer A.C. Avila.

Since being claimed, Blame the Wine has earned $68,560 for Santa Ines Stable and can win her fifth race in that span in Thursday's seventh race at Santa Anita, an optional claimer for statebred fillies and mares over seven furlongs.

Blame the Wine is entered for a $25,000 claiming price and has shown solid form at this level. She won a $25,000 claimer Jan. 6 and came back to finish second to 50-1 outsider Heavenly n' Free in an optional claimer here Jan. 15.

On Thursday, Blame the Wine has drawn post 6 in a field of seven for her 20th career start.

"I think this is a good place for her," Avila said. "She has to be lucky."

Avila said jockey Omar Berrio is a good fit for Blame the Wine. At the start, he said, a rider must coax Blame the Wine away from the gate, even though she is not a filly that needs the lead. Blame the Wine is more likely to race just behind the leaders. In her last start, she was fourth early and closed well to miss by a neck.

"She has to be asked a little bit at the start," Avila said. "It's more mental."

Blame the Wine is likely to race just behind expected pacesetter Be Driven and Midnight Rage. Be Driven, trained at San Luis Rey Downs by Sam Scolamieri, won a maiden special weight race for statebreds here Jan. 7 in her second start. She has drawn the rail and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.

Midnight Rage won her debut Jan. 16, leading throughout a maiden claimer over 5 1/2 furlongs. Trained by Rafael Becerra, Midnight Rage has returned to work quickly over this track.

Heavenly n' Free followed her upset with a sixth-place finish in an optional claimer against open company Jan. 31. She is eligible to be claimed for $25,000 on Thursday.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has a live contender in A Clever Ten, who drew the outside. She was fourth in the Heavenly n' Free-Blame the Wine race on Jan. 15 and second despite trouble on turf Feb. 4.