May 18, 2022

Blended Citizen on to Belmont Stakes after Peter Pan tally

Blended Citizen returning after his victory in the Peter Pan (G3) (Teresa Genaro photo)

by TERESA GENARO

ELMONT, N.Y. — Last weekend, the connections of Blended Citizen sat in a hotel room in Louisville, a room they’d booked when they thought that the bay colt had a shot at getting into the Kentucky Derby (G1). On the first Saturday in May, though, they were only spectators, not participants, Blended Citizen missing the top 20 by a mere seven points, finishing at #21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

“It was crushing,” said Brooke Hubbard, racing manager and bloodstock agent for Say Jay Racing, which owns Blended Citizen in partnership with Greg Hall.

So the day before the Derby, Hubbard and the owners sat in Louisville pondering next steps.

“Everyone was thinking about the Preakness (G1),” Hubbard said. “But I saw the Peter Pan G3) and said, ‘If the Belmont Stakes (G1) is the goal, let’s do this.'”

And on a gloomy, wet, dark afternoon at Belmont Park—a day on which the card started more than 30 minutes late as a result of a jockey protest over contractual issues—Blended Citizen did indeed do it, sitting off the pace and winning the Peter Pan by a length and a half.

Breaking from post 4 under jockey Kyle Frey, the 2011 champion apprentice, Blended Citizen raced wide and in the clear as Core Beliefs, Just Whistle, and High North ran three across the track through much of the nine furlongs. Coming around the final turn, Frey and Blended Citizen looked as though they might get stuck behind horses, but Frey found a gap and chased down the leaders, running down the center of the track to get up at the wire.

“I had the cleanest trip,” Frey said. “I was able to sneak outside, and once he got outside, I knew it was over. I should have just thrown my stick over the inside rail.”

He ran the 1 1/16 miles in 1:49.75, paying $11.40 to win.

The son of Proud Citizen out of the Langfuhr mare Langara Lass, Blended Citizen was bred in Kentucky by Ray Hanson. He was an RNA at $57,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2016, then purchased by Hubbard for $85,000 at last year’s March OBS sale of two-year-olds in training.

“He was athletic,” said Hubbard, representing the owners at Belmont. “You could tell he was kind of immature, and he was a big, gawky guy that didn’t work fast at the sale. But he showed a lot of heart.”

He began his career on the dirt, running at Del Mar and Santa Anita, with three unpromising performances before he hit the board in a maiden claimer on the turf. He broke his maiden on turf, then race twice on synthetic surfaces, winning the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park in March. The Peter Pan is Blended Citizen’s first win on dirt.

“His first couple of starts on the dirt, we were running him short, just giving him races,” Hubbard explained. “Everyone kept knocking him on the dirt, but he finally proved himself.”

“He’s such a big horse with such a big stride,” said Jack Sisterson, assistant trainer to Doug O’Neill. “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.”

By post time at 6:50 pm, rain had fallen for much of the afternoon at Belmont Park and the track had been downgraded to good, the first time Blended Citizen had run on an off-track. The colt will remain at Belmont Park to prepare for the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

“We’ll be liking our chances here [in the Belmont],” Sisterson said. “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.”