(Highland Falls wins the G3 Blame Stakes at Churchill Downs on Saturday  / All Photos by Coady Media)

From the Churchill Downs Media Team / Darren Rogers & Kevin Kerstein:

HIGHLAND FALLS SURGES PAST CAGLIOSTRO TO WIN GRADE III, $270,000 BLAME

 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, June 1, 2024)Godolphin’s promising homebred Highland Falls landed his first graded stakes victory when the 4-year-old Curlin colt surged past Caligostro inside the final 50 yards to win Saturday’s fifth running of the $270,000 Blame Stakes (Grade III) at Churchill Downs by one length.

          Florent Geroux rode the winner for trainer Brad Cox. Highland Falls ran 1 1/8 miles over a “fast” track in 1:48.51, which is the fastest clocking in five runnings of the race.

          The race was the highlight of Stephen Foster Preview Day as the home of the Kentucky Derby staged six takes events as preps for other marquee races on Saturday, June 29, including the $1 million Stephen Foster, a coveted Grade I event over 1 1/8 miles for older horses.

          Should Highland Falls opt to target the Foster he would have to be considered as one of the favorites for the race following his performance in the Blame.

Frosted Departure led the field of seven older horses in the Blame through fractions of :23.31, :47.72 and 1:11.71 as Cagliostro raced just off his right hip and Highland Falls tracked about three lengths back of the leader down the backstretch.

Cagliostro made the first run at Frosted Departure and left the final turn in front with Highland Falls under a three-furlong drive. Highland Falls tipped off the rail and into the three-path as he chased Caligostro, who spurted clear to a couple lengths advantage. But Highland Falls continued to grind away over the extended distance, drew within a length at the final furlong marker and surged past the tired leader inside final 50 yards for the win.

“On paper there wasn’t a lot of speed in the race but he always breaks pretty sharp,” Geroux said. “So we kept him pretty close to the pace. He seems to need a little bit of encouragement to keep focused and not level off. He kept finding more late down the lane and did some of his best running inside the eighth pole.”

Highland Falls, made the odds-on 4-5 favorite after a second-place finish to Skippylongstocking in the $1.25 million Oaklawn Handicap (GII) on April 20, returned $3.90, $2.98 and $2.10. Cagliostro, ridden by Jose Ortiz at odds of 7-1, paid $5.76 and $3.64. Dreamlike, the 2-1 second choice under Irad Ortiz Jr., paid $2.56 to show.

          After Dreamlike, it was Trademark, Frosted Departure, War Campaign and Last Samurai. Uncle Jake, Tapit Trice, Classic Causeway and Five Star General were scratched.

The victory was worth $166,900 and increased Highland Falls’ bankroll to $562,060 with a record of 4-1-1 in seven starts.

“I think this is a breakthrough performance for him,” Cox said. “He needed to win a race like this and I think it can really kickstart his campaign. He’s regally bred and can run all day long. A mile-and-a-quarter race down the road shouldn’t be a problem for him. Godolphin has two really nice older horses between First Mission, who’s targeting the Stephen Foster, and Highland Falls.”

Highland Falls is a Kentucky-bred son of Curlin out of the Awesome Again mare Round Pond.

The Blame is named after the 2010 Eclipse Award-winning older horse that handed Zenyatta her lone defeat in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) at Churchill Downs.