The SayJay Racing, Greg Hall and Brooke Hubbard-owned Blended Citizen, winner of the Grade 3 Peter Pan on May 12, breezed a commanding five furlongs in 1:00.64 over the Belmont Park main track just before the first race on Saturdayafternoon, his final serious move before his anticipated start in Saturday's 150th running of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.
The two-time Grade 3 winner took to the track alongside a pony at 12:45 p.m. in a special time reserved for the Doug O'Neill trainee.
Under jockey Mike Luzzi, the Proud Citizen colt began from the half-mile pole and ran the first eighth of a mile in 12.65 seconds and the quarter in 24.25, hitting the wire in 47.93, before finishing in 1:00.64 under the wire. NYRA clockers caught Blended Citizen galloping out six furlongs in 1:17.58. The smooth-moving colt did all the work, said Luzzi.
“He covers a lot of ground. He's a Cadillac,” Luzzi said. “Obviously we know he likes the track. I wish the best of luck to them next week.”
Assistant trainer Leandro Mora, who has been with O'Neill for 17 ½ years, arrived at Belmont late Friday afternoon from California to oversee the workout, and was pleased with the style and ease the multiple graded-stakes winner offered.
“What I like is how easily he did it,” Mora said. “It was nice, I'm very pleased. He wasn't even making noise going by. I like how he went past the wire. That's when you know you have a legit horse. I like what I saw.”
The afternoon workout is a tactic that O'Neill has used before, notably saddling Reddam Racing's then-undefeated colt Nyquist for a public workout at Santa Anita Park for his final breeze before he won the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile by a half-length.
“We don't school horses like some trainers,” said Mora. “If we work a horse prior or between races, or before the first race, we do it like a race, so they think they went through it, but they didn't go through the hassle. They come back to the barn, they've gone through the workout, and it's a whole psychological thing for them.”
Unplaced through three starts earlier in his career on dirt, the half-brother to Lookin At Lee was switched to turf, where he broke his maiden in his fifth start at Del Mar. It took a while for the long-striding colt to get to his first Grade 1 start next Saturday.
“This is a late-developing horse,” Mora said. “He was just a slow learner. We tried him on dirt, we thought he was just no good on dirt. So Doug put him on the grass and he won. [The owners] talked to Doug, and he said if you want to make it to the Kentucky Derby, let's do it like Animal Kingdom did. Run around synthetic, and try to qualify, and enjoy the Derby.
“Once we didn't get in, the owners brought up the [July 7 Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational] on the grass. Doug said, 'What about the Peter Pan?' and the owners said, 'Let's go.”
Blended Citizen, who placed third in the El Camino Real Derby in February at Golden Gate Fields, returned to win the Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park the following month, before running fifth in the Grade 2 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Blended Citizen has earnings of $406,854, and will be ridden by jockey Kyle Frey, who has been aboard the colt for his last four starts.
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