Michael Dubb, Madaket Stables and Bethlehem Stables' A Raving Beauty capitalized on her first start in the United States for trainer Chad Brown, scoring a three-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Beaugay Stakes at Belmont Park. The 5-year-old daughter of Mastercraftsman, ridden by Irad Ortiz, was the second choice at 5-2; favorite and stablemate Inflexibility finished second. A Raving Beauty, already Group 1 placed in Europe, covered 1 1/16 miles over the “good” inner turf in 1:41.64.
It was the first start for the 5-year-old gray mare by Mastercraftsman since finishing second in the Group 1 Premio Lydia Tesio on October 29 in Italy.
“She broke a lot better than I thought she would,” said Brown. “She's been training extremely well, and was a lot more forwardly placed than I thought anticipated. I thought Irad did a really good job to cover up. He had a choice there at the first eighth to maybe put her outside the other speed horse to see if he could settle her that way or cover up, but I think if he chose to put her outside she might have run off so I think he really won the race by choosing to cover up and then she did settle down.”
Inflexibility, favored at even money, finished a neck ahead of Lido in third. Team of Teams, Tricky Escape, My Impression, Broken Bridle completed the order of finish.
One race later, Greg Hall and Sayjay Racing's Blended Citizen dominated the G3 Peter Pan Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths as the 9-2 fourth choice. Ridden by Kyle Frey for trainer Doug O'Neill, the 3-year-old son of Proud Citizen covered nine furlongs over the “good” main track in 1:49.75. The 2-1 favorite Core Beliefs finished second, while Just Whistle crossed the line in third.
Scratched as an also-eligible in last Saturday's Kentucky Derby, the son of Proud Citizen was instead given a strong six-furlong breeze in 1:16 at Churchill Downs to keep the Kentucky-bred sharp. The plan worked out for trainer Doug O'Neill and his team as they shipped in to Belmont Park on Wednesday with this race, and an even longer and prestigious one in mind that will be contested four weeks from the Peter Pan.
“We led him over here with a lot of confidence,” said Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill. “He's such a big horse with such a big stride. We thought if he's going to love any track in America, it's going to be Belmont Park, so we weren't surprised with the result today. After the Bluegrass, the plan was the Peter Pan and then the [Grade 1, $1.5 million] Belmont.”
Off of a fifth-place finish in the April 7 Blue Grass at Keeneland, Blended Citizen set a patient trip behind a wall of four horses vying for the lead down the backstretch. Jockey Kyle Frey timed his move behind a quartet that included California shipper Core Beliefs, who recovered from a rough break at the gate, inside of Just Whistle, Gotta Go and High North who was widest among the group in the five path as Zing Zang remained last.
The battle for the lead continued, and approaching the seven-sixteenths mark, Kyle Frey, aboard the colt for the fourth time in his career urged the strapping colt along a six wide journey into the stretch for his run before he wore down rival Core Beliefs who was urged for more along the inside by jockey Tyler Baze, Seventy yards from the wire, Blended Citizen took the lead and continued on to the wire to score his third victory from 10 career starts.
The win was the second graded victory since the Triple Crown nominee captured the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks on March 17 at Turfway Park, his first race with blinkers. Hopes were for a better performance in the Blue Grass en route to a start in the Kentucky Derby, but a different path led to today's result.
“When horses started to drop out of the Kentucky Derby we thought, we'd take a chance there and we didn't get it,” Sisterson said. “But everything happens for a reason and here we are today. I think a lot of credit goes to Doug giving an opportunity to Kyle. We aren't jockeys, so we didn't give him any instructions. He knows the horse well and has worked him in the mornings and ridden him in the afternoon and he has a lot of confidence riding him. We'll be liking our chances here [in the Belmont]. We wish Justify the best and hope he'll win the Preakness for a chance with a Triple Crown on the line, but we like our chances and he'll stay here and train up to it.”
Core Beliefs, making his fifth start since a third place finish in the April 7 Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby held on for second four lengths ahead of Just Whistle, fresh off a maiden-breaking win at Keeneland on April 14. High North completed the order of finish while Zing Zang beat Gotta Go to the wire.
Blended Citizen returned $11.40 on a $2 win wager.
Trainer Peter Eurton, although expecting a better result from Core Beliefs, was still pleased with the lightly raced son of Quality Road.
“He bobbled a little bit at the start and then they were on me the whole way,” Eurton said. “It's a tough spot to be in but he ran well. He's getting better with each and every race. How could you feel disappointed? I was pretty happy with the way he ran.
With his next start pending in June 9 Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes, Blended Citizen could become the eighth horse to sweep the Peter Pan and Belmont Stakes double. Past winners of the tandem include Counterpoint 1951, Gallant Man 1957, Cavan 1958, Coastal 1979, Danzig Connection 1986, A.P. Indy 1992, and Tonalist 2017.
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