Greg Hall and Sayjay Racing’s (Steve Young) Blended Citizen tested the Kentucky Derby waters further on Saturday and picked up an additional 20 points toward making the gate with his impressive come-from-behind neck victory in the $202, 400 Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) at Turfway Park. The son of Proud Citizen is trained by two-time Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill and was ridden to victory by Kyle Frey.
Blended Citizen previously earned two points for his third-place finish behind the filly Paved in the El Camino Real Derby a month ago. He is currently tied for 13th in the point standings, but is not Triple Crown nominated.
At odds of more than 6-1, Blended Citizen returned $14.40, $7.20 and $5. Runner-up Pony Up was also 6-1 at post time and returned $7 and $4.80. Arawak was another length back in third and paid $6.80 at odds of more than 12-1. The exacta was worth $121.20 and the trifecta paid $315.05 for 50 cents.
Zanesville, Mugaritz, Sky Promise, Cash Call Kitten, Ride a Comet, Dreamer’s Point, Magical Meister, Archagellos and the favored Hazit rounded out the order of finish.
After a clean break from all, Mugaritz sped to the lead where he soon opened up on the field of 11 behind him, logging easy splits of :25.14, :48.77 and 1:12.55 for the first three-quarters of a mile. Frey let Blended Citizen break and fall back, finding position along the rail mid-pack and waiting for the right time to move. As the frontrunner rounded the far bend, Blended Citizen was on the move and passing tiring rivals in front of him while wide on the far bend.
Just as Mugaritz straightened out for the drive, a wall of horses was descending upon him and right after he passed the eighth pole in 1:38.83 Arawak and Pony Up took the lead almost together to his outside and Blended Citizen darted in toward the rail, where he wore down the three in front of him and snatched the win. The final time for the nine-furlong synthetic feature was 1:50.87.
“We broke a little quicker and we were a lot closer than I expected, and I had to steady a bit because the outside horse closed in on us early in the race,” Frey said. “I wasn’t too worried about it. I pulled out of there and waited. About the half-mile pole, it seemed like the race just started to fall apart. As things opened up, I just let Jesus take the wheel. With the way he was moving, all I needed was an opening and I got it.”
Blended Citizen, who was bred in Kentucky by Ray Hanson, was purchased for $85,000 as an Ocala Breeders’ Sales 2-year-old in training a year ago. Overall his record now stands at 8-2-0-2, $167,054.
“I knew he would run good,” O’Neill assistant, former rider Octavio Vergara said. “Last time out, he should have won the El Camino Real Derby, but he got stopped twice. Doug O’Neill sent him here to win and get into the Kentucky Derby.”
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.