Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing's Blended Citizen, who has had much of his success on the grass and all-weather surfaces, prepared for his return to the dirt in the April 7 $1 million Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G2) by working five furlongs in 1:01 over a fast main track March 31 at Keeneland.
Blended Citizen and workmate Arawak began to ease into the work at the three-quarter pole and proceeded to post fractions of :13 3/5, :26 3/5 and 1:01 with a six-furlong gallop-out time of 1:14 3/5. They completed a mile at the three-quarter pole in 1:41.
"That was very nice," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "I'm very happy with it. I thought they both worked very well and Arawak was very competitive with him."
O'Neill arrived at Keeneland with jockey Kyle Frey Saturday morning following an all-night drive from Atlanta, where they had missed a connecting flight to Lexington. O'Neill and Frey are returning to Santa Anita today and plan to be back in Lexington April 6, the day before the Blue Grass.
Blended Citizen made his first three starts on dirt, where his best finish was fifth. Three grass starts came next and then two starts on all-weather surfaces, culminating with a victory in the March 17 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park.
"Looking back at his form, I can find reasons for his dirt race performances," O'Neill said. "This is a horse that needs two turns and he is a half brother to Lookin At Lee, who was second in the (Kentucky) Derby last year.
"In (Blended Citizen's) first start, he drew the rail at Del Mar sprinting, which is not what he wants to do. In his second start he was outside all the way but he did make up some ground. Then I brought him back too quick when I stretched him out two turns at Santa Anita and he was outside and never in it."
Frey, who never has ridden at Keeneland, has been aboard Blended Citizen in his past two races but had worked the Proud Citizen colt previously on dirt.
"I was very satisfied with him and he handled the track well," Frey said of the colt, who worked in blinkers that were added for the Jeff Ruby Steaks. "The addition of the blinkers made the light bulb come on."
O'Neill said that Arawak, who has run on dirt three times in his nine-race career for previous trainer Wesley Ward, also could possibly wind up in the Blue Grass.
"We will play that by ear and get with the owners," said O'Neill, who won last year's Blue Grass with Irap. "If he does not go in the Blue Grass, he may go in the (Stonestreet) Lexington (G3, April 14)."
Four other probable Toyota Blue Grass starters put in works in Florida Saturday morning.
Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old male of 2017, worked at Palm Meadows for trainer Chad Brown, covering four furlongs in :48 in company. Good Magic is scheduled to ship to Keeneland April 2.
At Gulfstream Park, trainer Dale Romans, who will be seeking his third victory in the race, worked Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) winner Free Drop Billy (five furlongs in 1:01 4/5) and Tiz Mischief (five furlongs in 1:01.18). Another Blue Grass contender, Machismo worked five furlongs in :58.77 for trainer Anthony Quartarolo.