Next Stop Belmont Stakes
By Dick Downey
After sitting behind a wall of horses ultimately led by Core Beliefs, Blended Citizen came on in deep stretch to win the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.
Just Whistle, Core Beliefs, High North and Gotta Go opened the race just heads apart while they ran the first quarter-mile in 23.92. Just Whistle, Core Beliefs and High North went on to get the half-mile in 47.07 and six furlongs in 1:11.41 as Gotta Go began to fade a bit. Meanwhile, Blended Citizen and Kyle Frey rated in fifth, 1 3/4 length off the lead, with Zing Zang a couple more lengths back in sixth.
Once the field emerged from the turn, Core Beliefs opened up and held a 2 1/2-length lead over Just Whistle with an eighth of a mile remaining in the race. But Blended Citizen, who had come six wide but was only another half-length back at that point, wasn't be be denied and overtook Core Beliefs 70 yards from the wire. He won by 1 1/2 length going away.
The one-turn, nine-furlong Peter Pan was timed in 1:49.75.
Core Beliefs stayed on for second, and Just Whistle finished third, beaten 5 1/2 lengths, followed by High North, Zing Zang and Gotta Go. Diamond King was scratched in favor of the Preakness Stakes, and Transistor was also scratched.
The next goal for Blended Citizen will be the Belmont Stakes. He was being pointed to the Belmont as his sole Triple Crown start last month by trainer Doug O'Neill, but when defections on the Kentucky Derby trail materialized, O'Neill tried to make the race in Louisville. Blended Citizen was entered in the Kentucky Derby as the lone also-eligible, but he didn't make the field.
Before today's race, in reverse order Blended Citizen finished fifth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes after winning the Jeff Ruby Stakes and running third in the El Camino Real Derby, all at nine furlongs. The Peter Pan was his fourth consecutive race at 1 1/8 mile.
Sent off as the 9-2 fourth betting choice, Blended Citizen rewarded his faithful with payoffs of $11.40 to win, $4.40 to place and $2.60 to show.
The son of Proud Citizen is out of Langara Lass, by Langfuhr, and was bred in Kentucky by Ray Hanson. He's owned by Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing, LLC.
The win is the fourth of Blended Citizen's 11-race career. With his $210,000 share of the $350,000 purse, Blended Citizen now has $616,854 in earnings.
Assistant trainer Jack Sisterson: "We led him over here with a lot of confidence. He's such a big horse with such a big stride. 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. After the Bluegrass, the plan was the Peter Pan and then the Belmont. When horses started to drop out of the Kentucky Derby we thought, we'd take a chance there and we didn't get it. But everything happens for a reason and here we are today.
"I think a lot of credit goes to Doug giving an opportunity to Kyle. We aren't jockeys, so we didn't give him any instructions. He knows the horse well and has worked him in the mornings and ridden him in the afternoon and he has a lot of confidence riding him. We'll be liking our chances here. 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 and he'll stay here and train up to it."
Peter Eurton, trainer of Core Beliefs: "He bobbled a little bit at the start and then they were on me the whole way. It's a tough spot to be in, but he ran well. He's getting better with each and every race. How could you feel disappointed? I was pretty happy with the way he ran."