If Blended Citizen were to upset Justify's Triple Crown bid in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), or even finish on the board in the June 9 classic, it would reward the colt's connections who took a shot when they purchased him for $85,000 as a slow-developing 2-year-old.
The winner of three of 10 lifetime starts, whose victories include the Peter Pan Stakes (G3) and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3), Blended Citizen has earned $406,854 for trainer Doug O'Neill and owners Greg Hall and the Sayjay Racing stable of Steve Young. The 3-year-old son of Proud Citizen out of the multiple stakes winning Langfuhr mare Langara Lass, will break from the outside post in the 10-horse field at morning-line odds of 15-1 in the Belmont.
Bred in Kentucky by the late Ray Hanson, Blended Citizen was raised at the Pennland Farm of brothers John and Frank Penn. When offered by the Penns at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, the colt's half brother Lookin At Lee was just coming around, winning the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes and placing second in the Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, both too late to show on his half brother's catalog page. Blended Citizen was bought back on a final bid of $57,000.
But Lookin At Lee had been on the radar of a client of Ciaran Dunne, who operates the successful Florida-based Wavertree Stables, and Blended Citizen was bought privately for re-sale as a 2-year-old.
Dunne recalls that Blended Citizen was not a striking individual as a yearling, but he and his client decided it was worth the investment.
"A client who watches a lot of races had watched Lookin At Lee run well at Churchill and he called and said 'go down and see if you can get this horse bought'," Dunne recalls. "He was a big, raw horse who looked like a slow-to-mature type of colt—not your typical yearling to 2-year-old pinhook. But the Penns raise a really nice horse and we had good luck buying from them in the past. Our partner was very keen on him because of Lookin At Lee and the price was right."
Under Dunne's training, Blended Citizen met, but did not exceed, expectations.
"If I said we always loved him it would be a lie," Dunne said. "Over the winter, he was what you would have expected when looking at him. He was slow to come to hand. He was always very sound and honest but he was unspectacular."
Consigned by Wavertree to last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale, Blended Citizen did not dazzle when he breezed a quarter-mile in :22 1/5, one of the slowest pre-sale workouts at the distance.
Despite his unremarkable presence and workout, Blended Citizen caught the eye of Brooke Hubbard, a young agent who buys for Young and also assists bloodstock agent Dennis O'Neill, Doug O'Neill's brother. Hubbard signed the ticket for Blended Citizen at $85,000.
"I couldn't tell you what she saw in him but she saw something," Dunne said. "The only thing she asked was whether I thought he would be OK if they gave him time (to develop). In an effort to sell him I said yes."
"His breeze was OK," Hubbard told BloodHorse's Evan Hammonds following the Jeff Ruby victory earlier this year. "(The workout time) was a little high, but you could just tell he was immature and he was trying to figure himself out. I went back to Wavertree's barn to look at him and he had a great neck, great top line—he was well put together. He just looked a little on the rougher side, and I thought he'd be a later-developing horse."
While the price paid by Hubbard represented a modest gain for Dunne and his client, the results might have been even better had the colt been offered at a later auction. Following Hubbard's purchase of Blended Citizen, Lookin At Lee finished second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
"If we had waited (longer), maybe we would have done a little better, but he was never going to be quick horse early," Dunne said. "Sometimes you look to be pleasantly surprised, and this time we weren't. He was always what he was supposed to be. We didn't have to pay a whole lot for him and we still made some money."
But now that he has developed to his potential, Blended Citizen has a chance to compete at the classic level.
Blended Citizen was entered in this year's Kentucky Derby, but was 21st on the points list that determines the 20-horse field for the classic. He subsequently won the Peter Pan at Belmont Park a week after the Derby.
"It would obviously be really cool to be the party pooper, and it would be great if one of the slowest workers at the sale ended up on the board in a classic, and I think he has a good shot to do that," Dunne said.