By Meredith Daugherty BloodHorse
Three-year-old Blame Debbie fought all the way to the wire Oct. 18 at Keeneland and finally earned her first graded stakes victory by a head in the $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes (G3T) over 1 1/2 miles.
Ridden by Manny Franco, Blame Debbie broke sharply and cut to the inside to take command of the field on the rail. The filly set relatively slow fractions of :26.66, :53.68, and 1:20.68 through the first six furlongs stalked closed by Always Shopping to her direct outside.
Inching ever closer to the leader along the backstretch, Always Shopping cut Blame Debbie’s lead from one length to a head as they reached the 1 1/4-mile mark in 1:46.98. Rounding the final turn, the pair were dueling hard and pulled clear of the rest of the field in a battle to the wire.
Blame Debbie and Always Shopping ran neck and neck all the way to the finish line as Blame Debbie refused to yield. With only the final yards left to run, Always Shopping pressed Blame Debbie even harder but couldn’t quite edge the leader. The final time was 2:34.74.
“She was so nice and so game in the lead,” Franco said. “I think she felt (Always Shopping) coming by the five-sixteenths pole to the wire. She never let that one pass her. I was really pleased. I was riding to the wire, and she responded to me the whole way.
“She relaxed pretty nice. She made the lead. When she was on the lead, she just put her ears up. She was galloping along the whole way, and she was there for me the whole way.”
“Initially, we were like, ‘Whoa, Manny. Slow down.’ Then he did,” said Jane Buchanan, the racing manager to trainer Graham Motion. “He got her settled brilliantly. When Always Shopping came into contention with us, it was, ‘Oh no.’ He rode her brilliantly. She just dug in. She was really game.”
Blame Debbie’s previous graded stakes effort came July 19 in the Lake Placid Stakes (G2T) at Saratoga Race Course where she finished sixth. The daughter of Claiborne Farm stallion Blame entered the race off an Oct. 2 allowance win at Keeneland.
“It was hard-fought and it scared me to death,” said Tim Thornton, who co-bred the filly with Tony Holmes. “She ran game but she had easy fractions through the first part of it. I was tickled to death how she held on over the other filly.
“She’s a straightforward filly. She’s really tough and she’s game. She always gives it her best. I’d say we will give her a break now and come back next year. She’ll be a good 4-year-old, and we’re excited.”
Bred in Kentucky out of the Invasor mare Jadwa, Blame Debbie has a 3-1-3 record from 10 starts with earnings of $215,920. The filly is campaigned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Cloonan, and Thornton.