Dontblamerocket 'doing better than he ever has'

| Churchill Downs, Coady Photography photos, Ellis Park, horse racing, horse trainers

Julien Leparoux guided Dontblamerocket to victory in the Fair Grounds' Col. E.R. Bradley Stakes. Hodges Photography

By Alicia Hughes, NTRA Communications

It has been just over a year since Dontblamerocket came into trainer Norm Casse’s shedrow and in that time, the 6-year-old gelding has proven he can often be trusted to back up his touts.

In his first three starts for Casse and owner AJ Suited Racing Stable after being claimed for $50,000 at Churchill Downs last May 24, Dontblamerocket delivered nothing but victories. When he faced his stiffest competition to date in the Grade 2 Muniz Memorial Classic at Fair Grounds in March, the only horse who beat him to the finish line was multiple graded-stakes winner Factor This, and the list of foes behind him included eventual Grade 1 winner Instilled Regard.

So when Casse mentions that his charge coming into Sunday’s $100,000 Kentucky Downs Preview Tourist Mile as good as ever since being in his care, it bears more heeding that typical trainer speak. 

“It’s nice to be able to map out what you want to do with a horse and a horse like Rocket will do whatever you need in the mornings,” Casse said. “Everything you ask him to do he’ll do it. He’s trained really well since the pandemic started and … I think he’s doing better than he ever has.”

Dontblamerocket made himself into a stakes winner when he captured the Colonel E. R. Bradley at Fair Grounds on January 18 and he can double down on the black type on his resume should his AM form translate in the Tourist Mile, one of five $100,000 turf stakes at the RUNHAPPY Summer Meet at Ellis Park which offers a fees-paid berth in the corresponding race at Kentucky Downs.

Following his runner-up effort in the Muniz Memorial, Dontblamerocket was sent off as the heavy favorite when he returned in a 1 1/16-miles allowance-optional claiming test at Churchill Downs on June 18. The class was there, but the racing luck was not as the bay gelding ended up shuffled back to last in the nine-horse field and faced more trouble en route to a fourth-place finish.

“He got away bad and then kind of got slammed from both directions leaving the gate and next thing you know, he’s sitting a lot farther back than he’s normally accustomed to,” Casse said of that outing. “At Churchill, when the rail is out on the turf, it’s hard to make a big run from way in the back. I just think it’s a throw out all together. I think it was more a circumstantial, just a bad trip, throw it out and move forward.”

Circumstances also got the best of Dontblamerocket when he finished fifth in the Grade 3 Fair Grounds Stakes as his nemesis Factor This was allowed to run pressure-free on the front end. Should all line up in his favor this Sunday, Dontblamerocket will likely return to the undulating Kentucky Downs course where he scored a starter-allowance victory last September.

“We’ll just see how he run this weekend and we’ll go from there but obviously Kentucky Downs is right there in the back of our minds,” Casse said.