HENDERSON, Ky. (Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017) — Mike Bruder has raced at Ellis Park throughout his 40 years owning racehorses. But the retired Evansville businessman has never had a horse in his hometown track’s marquee race — something he hopes to rectify in a week.
Bruder owns Put Da Blame On Me, a 4-year-old filly who comes into the Aug. 13, Grade 3 Groupie Doll off two big allowance victories at Churchill Downs, both at the $100,000 stakes’ mile distance.
“I’m happy just to have the opportunity to run in it,” he said. “This horse is doing really well,and I sure hope she performs for us. I’m thinking she will. When we first started with her, we thought she was really going to be something. Then we had little problems with her, and we corrected that, you’ll notice in her last three starts. So I expect her a big run out of her.”
“It’s exciting for all of us, but it’s got to be really exciting for Mike,” said trainer Mike Tomlinson. “It’s home for him, and to have a live shot at winning the Groupie Doll, the only graded race at the track, I’m tickled to death to be in this position. All systems are go. She’s hitting on four cylinders. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope things stay that way until the 13th.”
Put Da Blame On Me has thrived since Tomlinson added blinkers, taking second in her first start racing with the equipment change before reeling off the two scores.
“When we first got her, we added blinkers, thinking she needed them,” Tomlinson said. “For whatever reason, at Churchill she broke dead last and didn’t run until late, ran a decent race but was totally different from what we thought. So we took the blinkers back off her and probably waited too long to put them back on. But since we’ve added them this time, it really has made a big difference.
“But she had like most 3-year-old fillies, little nagging issues, and she’s worked her way through those. Just a combination of things I think is what turned the corner for her.”
While Put Da Blame On Me showed speed before blinkers were added the first time, Tomlinson’s exercise riders all said filly was easily distracted.
“They said she watches everything around her,” Tomlinson said. “We were just trying to focus her on running as opposed to what’s going on around her. Then we come back almost a year later, add the blinkers again and she shows even more speed. These horses just mature and change.”
On May 28, Put Da Blame On Me set a very solid pace before drawing off to prevail by 7 1/2 lengths. A month later, she she again was in front but engaged in a protected duel with Groupie Doll nominee Mines and Magic before winning by a head. She was ridden in both starts by James Graham.
“The first race, she just scooted the lead and just outclassed them and out-sprinted them for home,” Tomlinson. “Any time you can dictate the pace and finish, you’re going to be tough. The second race, Mines and Magic was a real grinder and our filly just showed the most guts and heart to persevere at the wire.”
Put Da Blame On Me was third in last year’s Grade 3 Iowa Oaks, but a victory in a graded stakes like the Groupie Doll would be huge for her prospective broodmare value. Bruder purchased Put Da Blame On Me privately after she failed to sell at Keeneland’s 2014 yearling sale. He remembers paying about what her final bid of $55,000 was.
The owner loves playing the Blame game, being an admirer of the Claiborne Farm stallion who in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs became the only horse to beat the great mare Zenyatta.
“It seems like I always buy one or two Blames every year at the sale,” said Bruder, who has 11 horses with Tomlinson. “After that race, I said, ‘My lord, Blame won this race. Maybe I better buy me a Blame.’”
Bruder, a long-time board member of the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association that represents owners and trainers, campaigned multiple graded-stakes winner Guys Reward. He won Saratoga’s Grade 2 Hall of Fame Stakes with Quick Wit in 2012, and Keeneland’s Grade 3 Fayette with M B Sea in 2003. But he can’t recall winning a stakes before at Ellis. Whether Put Da Blame On Me wins or not, look for the owner to keep trying.
“I started in 1977, and I had a lot of inexpensive horses back then,” he said. “That’s where they ran: Ellis, Turfway and River Downs. I beat that road up with a lot $5,000, $3,500 claimers. Probably around 2000 I started buying a little bit better-grade horses, a bit more quality. I guess I’m probably spending some of my kids’ inheritance, but I enjoy what I do. As long as I’m breathing, I’m going to do it.”