Blended Citizen Odds to Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes with Picks and Predictions
Doug O'Neill is a controversial character in the sport. The trainer has won three Triple Crown races since 2012, so he knows how to have success at the high level. He also has had far more drug suspensions than any other high-level trainer currently in the sport, though. Some people defend him, saying it is overblown. Others regard him with cynicism and distaste. Every time he has a horse in a high-profile race like this, though, those discussions keep coming up. It is a bit of a dark mark for a colt here that has shown some talent and could be a factor in the Belmont if things break his way.
Last race: A week after the Kentucky Derby this horse entered the starting gate for the Peter Pan Stakes here at Belmont. He settled off the pace in the mid-pack like he tends to do and looked comfortable despite going a little wide at times. He was well positioned entering the endless stretch, and he made a tidy move to take the lead for good. It was less a dominating win than a professional one, but there were things to like. He flashed speed in the stretch that could be very handy here if Justify falters and there is an opportunity to move to the lead. The Peter Pan is a bit of an unofficial Belmont Stakes prep, with Tonalist coming out of it to win the Belmont in 2014. Since that race he has posted a bullet work at Belmont, so he obviously likes the track.
Prior experience: The colt made his racing debut way back in July at Del Mar. It's wasn't a very inspiring start - it took him five tries over four months to break his maiden, and he even dropped into maiden claiming for the fourth start. He switched to turf for the fourth and fifth starts, finally winning during the Del Mar Breeders' Cup meet. He finished off his two-year-old year jumping into stakes company in what would be his last turf appearance. He wound up fourth in the Eddie Logan. At three he was third in the El Camino Real in the Bay Area before heading to Turfway Park in Kentucky and winning the Jeff Ruby Steaks for his first graded stakes win (yes, it really is called a Steaks race, and yes that really is stupid). He jumped up onto the Derby prep scene to try to make it to Churchill but ran into early trouble in the Blue Grass and never recovered, finishing fifth.
Trainer: Doug O'Neill. It will be an accomplishment if O'Neill can just get this horse into the starting gate - something he has struggled with in this race. In 2012 he scratched Derby and Preakness winner I'll Have Another in the days before the Belmont. The official reason was a tendon injury, but O'Neill has had a long history of drug infractions with his horses, was just given another suspension at Belmont that he would start serving July 1, and his colt was going to be under increased scrutiny leading up to the race. Less charitable people - myself definitely among them - never really bought the tendon story. And in 2015 he was intending to send Derby winner Nyquist to the Preakness, but he was again scratched when he didn't seem ready. There are many people who like and respect O'Neill and give him a lot of credit for his three Triple Crown race wins. And there are people like me, who are less free with the credit.
Jockey: Kyle Frey. Frey was the nation's top apprentice jockey at the 2012 Eclipse Awards, but he has been slow to establish himself since he has been riding at full weight. He has just four career graded stakes wins - all in Grade 3 races, which is the lowest level of graded stakes, and all in the last two years. Fully half of those graded wins have come aboard this colt. Frey is riding more and more for O'Neill, and he is having some success as a result. This is a serious step up in class for him, though, and he's not an asset for this colt at this point.
Breeding: Blended Citizen is sired by Proud Citizen, who was second in the Derby in 2002. Proud Citizen is best known for siring two Kentucky Oaks winners, and his best offspring have shown distance capabilities. Blended Citizen's damsire is Langfuhr, a Canadian sprint champion who sired Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando, among others. Langfuhr is the source of this colt's strong speed, but there are stamina aspects as well - Lookin at Lee, who was second in the Derby last year, is a half-brother to this colt. The breeding isn't the best in the field by any means, but it is solid enough.
Odds: Blended Citizen is at +1400 to win the Belmont at Bovada , which has him currently sixth in the prospective field of up to 12 horses. I don't have any real issue with that placement in the hierarchy, but I sure don't see any value in the price, either.
Can Blended Citizen Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes?: Sure. The race is going to be determined up front. Will Justify be allowed to set a comfortable pace or run behind another horse at a reasonable pace? If he is, and if the colt is feeling good, then the race is likely over. But if Justify doesn't fire, or if the pace scenario goes crazy, then this horse could be well positioned to pick up the pieces. He should be about mid-pack through most of the first mile. If Frey can keep him contained and out of trouble then he could do some damage. I'm not betting on it, but it is certainly possible given his speed.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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