Blended Citizen came to Turfway Park on Saturday looking for a way into the Kentucky Derby.
He might have found it by winning the $200,000, Grade 3 Jeff Ruby Steaks by a neck for trainer Doug O’Neill.
“I knew he would run good! Last time out, he should have won the El Camino Real Derby, but he got stopped twice,” said O’Neill’s assistant, Octavio Vergara. “Doug O’Neill sent him here to win and get into the Kentucky Derby.”
Blended Citizen earned 20 points in the road to the Kentucky Derby points system with Saturday’s win, bringing his total to 22 — good for a 14th-place tie. The Kentucky Derby field holds 20 horses. However, Blended Citizen has not yet been nominated to this year’s Triple Crown races.
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Blended Citizen and the rest of the 12-horse Jeff Ruby Steaks field chased Mugaritz for most of the race before that one faded approaching the top of the stretch. A group that included Blended Citizen and Pony Up surged to the front, and Blended Citizen held off Pony Up by a neck at the wire, slipping past on the rail. Arawak was a length behind Pony Up in third.
“About the half-mile pole, it seemed like the race just started to fall apart,” said Kyle Frey, Blended Citizen’s jockey. “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.”
Amy Mullen, assistant to Pony Up trainer, Todd Pletcher, said their horse “ran great” but “just ran out of room.”
The complete order of finish after the top three was Zanesville, Mugaritz, Sky Promise, Cash Call Kitten, Ride a Comet, Dreamer’s Point, Magicalmeister, Archaggelos and Hazit. Ride a Comet and Hazit were the morning-line co-favorites for the Jeff Ruby, which was formerly known as the Spiral Stakes.
The victory was the second in eight starts for Blended Citizen, who finished third the El Camino Real at Golden Gate in his previous outing.
Magnum Moon wins Rebel
Magnum Moon, ridden by Luis Saez and trained by Todd Pletcher, won Saturday’s Grade 2, $900,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park to claim 50 points on the road to Kentucky Derby.
Solomini was second and Combatant third, picking up 20 and 10 Derby points, respectively.
Magnum Moon remained undefeated in three career starts.