FLORENCE, KY – Greg Hall and Sayjay Racing’s Blended Citizen needed every inch of the Turfway Park stretch to prevail just in time to take Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks.
Unhurried early from post 8 under Kyle Frey, Blended Citizen settled off the pace while Mugaritz took a commanding lead down the backside through splits of :25.14, :48.77, and 1:12.55. Heading into the far turn, Mugaritz ran out of gas and began fading while Blended Citizen made his move. The Doug O’Neill trainee made a strong bid down the inside of the lane and was able to just catch Pony Up in the shadow of the wire, winning by a neck.
“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.”
Arawak was close at the top of the stretch but flattened out and had to settle for third, a length behind the lead duo. Zanesville was another length back in fourth, 2 1/2 lengths in front of the fading Mugaritz. Sky Promise, Cash Call Kitten, Ride a Comet, Dreamer’s Point, Magicalmeister, and Archaggelos completed the order in front of the favored Hazit, never a threat after stumbling out of the gate.
The Jeff Ruby Steaks is part of the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Blended Citizen earned 20 points for the win, with Pony Up receiving 8 for second, Arawak 4 for third, and Zanesville 2 for fourth.
Blended Citizen’s win improved his record to 8-2-0-2 with career earnings of $167,054. The 3-year-old son of Proud Citizen was third last out in the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, a performance which earned him 2 points towards a start on the first Saturday in May.
“I knew he would run good!” said Octavio Vergara, O’Neill’s assistant. “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.”
Blended Citizen returned $14.40 to win, $7.20 to place, and $5 to show. Pony Up brought back $7 to place and $4.80 to show, while Arawak paid $6.80 to show.