Running 12 furlongs off a 200-day layoff over a turf course that absorbed several days of rain proved no obstacle for Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Cloonan, and Tim Thornton’s Blame Debbie in a front-running 3 ½-length triumph in Sunday’s $100,000 Searching Stakes at historic Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, M.D.
The 11th running of the 1 ½-mile Searching for fillies and mares 3 and up on the grass, back on the Maryland stakes calendar after being lost during a pandemic-shortened 2020 schedule, was the first of five stakes worth $475,000 in purses on the 10-race program.
Following the Searching were the $100,000 Prince George’s County Stakes on turf, $100,000 Shine Again Stakes featuring undefeated multiple stakes winner Chub Wagon, and $100,000 Stormy Blues Stakes and $75,000 Ben’s Cat Stakes, both five-furlong sprints moved from the grass to the main track.
Ridden by Victor Carrasco for trainer Graham Motion, Blame Debbie ($6.20) completed the distance in 2:38.50 over a turf course rated good. Luck Money, the 6-5 favorite, got past Crystalle nearing the wire for second, and was followed by Whatdoesasharksay, Breviary, and Proper Storm. Beautiful Lover and Scatrattleandroll were scratched.
Motion also won a division of the 2000 Searching Stakes with Confessional when the race was held at Laurel Park.
“Pimlico is my local track. I love running here. This is where we like to run,” Motion said. “And to have a stake like this, there’s less and less of these distance stakes around, so it was just such a good opportunity to get started this year.”
By Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Blame, Blame Debbie crossed the wire first in three consecutive races last year but was disqualified to third for interference in a Kentucky Downs allowance in September. She followed up with back-to-back wins at Keeneland in a 1 1/8-mile allowance and the 1 ½-mile Grade 3 Dowager Stakes, the latter going gate-to-wire and holding on by a head.
Blame Debbie hadn’t run since being beaten 2 ¾ lengths when fifth following a troubled trip in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 3 Red Carpet Handicap Nov. 26 at Del Mar.
“Once she broke sharp and Victor found himself on the lead, he did a perfect job of slowing it down best he could and she got away with some pretty good fractions,” Motion said. “I think know that she’s won to pretty decent stakes going 1 1/2 mile this is probably her preferred distance. I think she’ll go 1 1/8, 1 ¼ mile but I really think she is a marathoner, especially when she gets fractions like she did today.”
With only Luck Money and Breviary to her outside, Blame Debbie inherited the lead and set a deliberate pace of 27.63 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 55.29 for the half, tracked by Luck Money racing in between Whatdoesasharksay and Breviary. Carrasco didn’t move on Blame Debbie until the field entered the stretch a second time, setting her down for a drive to the wire.
“Just like we talked about. [Motion] said, ‘Victor, I don’t see much speed so if they let you go and you relax, go for it. But if you see somebody go, she doesn’t need to be on the lead,’” Carrasco said. “We planned on going and she didn’t fight me much the first part. Once we passed the first wire and I peeked to the screen and I saw 27 and 55 [seconds], I was just thinking in my mind, ‘This race is over.’ Once we turned for home and I got after her, she just opened up and rode away from the field.”
Searching, a 1978 Hall of Fame inductee, was a bay daughter of 1937 Triple Crown champion War Admiral bred by Odgen Phipps that won the Gallorette Stakes at Pimlico in 1955 and 1957 for trainer Hirsch Jacobs, retiring with a record of 25-14-16 with $327,381 in purse earnings from 89 starts. As a broodmare, Searching also enjoyed great success with offspring such as Affectionately, an 18-time stakes winner and dam of 1970 Preakness winner Personality, and Admiring, the grand-dam of 1993 Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero.