It seems as if some combination of Hofburg, Bravazo, and Vino Rosso will assume the role of Belmont Stakes wagering choices two through four, with the Anointed One the clear favorite at something around even money. Tenfold will attract his share of the wagering dollars too, and the rest are headed for big prices. I liked Vino Rosso in the Kentucky Derby as a major exotics player. Same for Hofburg. In the Preakness, I dismissed Bravazo and Tenfold, and that decision cost me money. And while I try not to be stubborn in this game, the way the Belmont is shaping up, I am very likely to dismiss all four of them next Saturday in favor of a horse who, in my opinion, has run some of the most sneaky-impressive races on the Triple Crown Trail this year. I’m talking about Blended Citizen.
For starters, let’s go back to the end of Blended Citizen’s juvenile campaign. Trainer Doug O’Neill moved him to the grass and he responded with three really solid efforts, including a maiden win and a respectable fourth in the Eddie Logan at Santa Anita. As a three-year-old, the preferred surfaced seemed to be synthetic, as Blended Citizen ran 3rd and 1st in the El Camino Real Derby and Jeff Ruby “Steaks”, respectively. So he liked grass and synthetic, right? Big deal. Well, this is why you need to watch replays if you are going to expect to win money at the races. Go back at watch his first two starts this year. And what you will see is a horse that spent a lot of time time in traffic and then kept on running. I’m not saying he had troubled trips. I am saying he spent more time in and among horses than perhaps any other horse on the Derby Trail this year. And what’s more, he just runs and runs like a locomotive through the wire, never giving up. So, yes, those first two starts were on what may be his preferred surface. I’ll give you that. But for me, the takeaway is that the horse has heart and ability.
So then they tried the dirt again in the Blue Grass Stakes, and he ran really well again, finishing 5th. If you are looking at PPs that reference late trouble, ignore the comments. He had no trouble. But he DID, again, run in traffic and persevere late while others were stopping. So the ability to be in-between horses for 3/4 mile or more and have something left late is becoming a theme at this point. He doesn’t have anything resembling an explosive turn of foot. But he just keep grinding.
That brings us to the Peter Pan Stakes. I bet him that day, and with 1/4 mile to go, I was pretty sure I was a loser. But then Blended Citizen did what Blended Citizen does. He just kept cranking out :12 and change 1/8ths, and got up for the win as the fourth choice in the wagering. A cursory review of his PPs shows he loves to come home his final 1/8th usually well under :13, regardless of the early pace. And he did it again in the Peter Pan.
Now, as for Justify, he’s obviously really good. He’s has put away the horse who I thought was the best of the crop, Good Magic, twice with ease. And I don’t think anyone can predict with confidence that Justify will lose the Belmont Stakes. But I don’t think he’s the mortal lock that some people feel he is. And even if he DOES win, you can still make money. We saw that in the Preakness. So the key for me is Blended Citizen. I’ll likely bet him to win and place, and then figure out a way to make money if Justify wins. Maybe by keying Justify and Blended Citizen 1-2 in the superfecta, over ALL/ALL. Not sure yet. But I am sure that Blended Citizen will be the key to a successful Belmont Day for me. And if you take the time to watch the replays of each of his starts this year, I think you’ll be hard pressed to dismiss him.