Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing's Blended Citizen, who has had much of his success on the grass and all-weather surfaces, prepared for his return to the dirt in next Saturday's $1 million Toyota Blue Grass (G2) by working 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 over a fast main track this morning at Keeneland.
Blended Citizen and workmate Arawak began to ease into the work at the three-quarter pole and proceeded to post fractions of :13.60, :26.60 and 1:01.20 with a 6-furlong gallop-out time of 1:14.60. They completed a mile at the three-quarter pole in 1:41.
“That was very nice,” trainer Doug O'Neill said. “I'm very happy with it. I thought they both worked very well and Arawak was very competitive with him.”
O'Neill arrived at Keeneland with jockey Kyle Frey Saturday morning following an all-night drive from Atlanta, where they had missed a connecting flight to Lexington. O'Neill and Frey are returning to Santa Anita today and plan to return to Lexington on Friday, the day before the Toyota Blue Grass.
Blended Citizen made his first three starts on dirt with his best finish being fifth. Three grass starts came next and then two starts on all-weather surfaces, culminating with a victory in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park on March 17.
“Looking back at his form, I can find reasons for his dirt race performances,” O'Neill said. “This is a horse that needs two turns and he is a half-brother to Lookin At Lee, who was second in the (Kentucky) Derby last year.
“In (Blended Citizen's) first start, he drew the rail at Del Mar sprinting, which is not what he wants to do. In his second start he was outside all the way but he did make up some ground. Then I brought him back too quick when I stretched him out two turns at Santa Anita and he was outside and never in it.”
Frey, who never has ridden at Keeneland, has been aboard Blended Citizen in his past two races but had worked the Proud Citizen colt previously on dirt.
“I was very satisfied with him and he handled the track well,” Frey said of the colt, who worked in blinkers that were added for the Jeff Ruby Steaks. “The addition of the blinkers made the light bulb come on.”
Upon leaving the track, O'Neill asked Frey about the work and the rider answered with a question: “How are you going to spend your $60,000?” in reference to their share of the $600,000 that goes to the winner of the Toyota Blue Grass.
O'Neill said that Arawak, who has run on dirt three times in his nine-race career for previous trainer Wesley Ward, also could possibly wind up in the Toyota Blue Grass.
“We will play that by ear and get with the owners,” said O'Neill, who won last year's Toyota Blue Grass with Irap. “If he does not go in the Blue Grass, he may go in the (Stonestreet) Lexington (G3 on April 14).”
Four other probable Toyota Blue Grass starters put in works in Florida Saturday morning.
Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old of 2017, worked at Palm Meadows for trainer Chad Brown, covering 4 furlongs in :48 in company. Good Magic is scheduled to ship to Keeneland Monday.
At Gulfstream Park, trainer Dale Romans, who will be seeking his third victory in the race, worked Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner Free Drop Billy (5 furlongs in 1:01.80) and Tiz Mischief (5 furlongs in 1:01.18). Another Toyota Blue Grass contender, Machismo worked 5 furlongs in :58.77 for trainer Anthony Quartarolo.
Working Friday at Palm Meadows for trainer Mark Casse were Flameaway (4 furlongs in :48.75) and Determinant (4 furlongs in :49.25). Both horses are scheduled to arrive at Keeneland on Monday.
Other probable Toyota Blue Grass starters are California Night, Gotta Go, Heartfullofstars, Quip, Sporting Chance and Zing Zang. Another possible starter is Kanthaka, who worked 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 at Santa Anita this morning.
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