LEXINGTON, KY – Trainer Graham Motion’s Blame Debbie, the lone 3-year-old in the field of six fillies and mares, looked twice her age as she tenaciously held off Always Shopping to wire Sunday’s $125,000 Rood and Riddle Dowager Stakes (G3) at Keeneland.
Blame Debbie broke from post 2 under Manny Franco as the 3/2 favorite after winning a 1 1/8-mile allowance over this course just 16 days earlier.
Sent to the lead, Blame Debbie posted tepid fractions of :26.66, :53.68, 1:20.68, and 1:46.98 through the opening mile.
Always Shopping ranged up from her close stalking position midway down the backstretch and challenged for the lead as the field entered the far turn for the second time.
Blame Debbie dug in gamely and refused to wilt along the rail, running heads apart with Always Shopping the length of the stretch while never relinquishing the lead.
The tough-as-nails Graham Motion trainee crossed a head clear while completing the 1 1/2-mile, three-turn turf marathon in 2:34.74.
“She was so nice and so game in the lead,” Franco said. “I think she felt that other horse coming by the 5/16 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.”
Always Shopping was 2 1/4 lengths clear of With Dignity, who took third by a 1/2-length ahead of Over Thinking.
Completing the order of finish came Siberian Iris and Naomi Broadway.
Blame Debbie’s win was her first in a stakes and came in her fourth attempt at this level, with her previous best a third-place finish in last December’s Demoiselle Stakes (G2). The Blame filly now sports a record of 10-3-1-3 with $215,920 earned for co-owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Michael Cloonan, and Timothy Thornton (who also co-bred her).
Blame Debbie returned $5 to win, $3.20 to place, and $2.60 to show. Always Shopping brought back $4 to place and $2.80 to show, while With Dignity paid $2.60 to show.
“Initially, we were like, ‘Whoa, Manny, slow down,’” said Motion’s racing manager Jane Buchanan. “Then he did. 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.”