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Blended Citizen steps toward Kentucky Derby with Jeff Ruby Steaks win; Go Noni Go takes Bourbonette

NKyTribune staff

Just more than two lengths covered the top three finishers in a thrilling renewal of the $200,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park Saturday, with Blended Citizen hitting the wire a neck in front to earn 20 points toward a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate. Pony Up was second, a length ahead of Arawak in third.

Blended Citizen (No.8) crosses the line ahead of a hard-charging Pony Up (No.4) to take the G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park Saturday and earn 20 points toward Kentucky Derby eligibility. Click to enlarge. (photos by Mark Hansel).

Final time for the 1 1/8-mile race over Polytrack was 1:50.87.

Mugaritz took the lead early and set a moderate pace while Blended Citizen was steadied before settling mid-pack and Pony Up and Arawak raced near the back of the field of 12 3-year-olds. The lead stretched to six and then seven lengths, with Mugaritz holding the advantage until the late runners began to engulf him just before the sixteenth pole. It was a horse race from that point home, as jockey Kyle Frey drove Blended Citizen up the rail and Albin Jimenez urged Pony Up to challenge from the outside.

“We broke a little quicker and we were a lot closer than I expected,” said Frey. “I had to steady a bit because the outside horse (Ride a Comet) closed in on us early in the race. I wasn’t too worried about it. I pulled out of there and waited. About the half mile pole, it seemed like the race just started to fall apart. As things opened up, I just let Jesus take the wheel. With the way he was moving, all I needed was an opening and I got it.”

The Jeff Ruby is the first stakes win for Blended Citizen, who earned two points toward the Kentucky Derby with a third-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby exactly a month ago.

“I knew he would run good,” said Octavio Vergara, assistant for Doug O’Neill. “Last time out, he should have won the El Camino Real Derby, but he got stopped twice. “Doug O’Neill sent him here to win and get into the Kentucky Derby.”

Jeff Ruby (white hat) presents the trophy to the connections of Blended Citizen, winner of the Jeff Ruby Steaks.

O’Neill added blinkers for the Jeff Ruby and the close win proved the wisdom of the change.

“He got such a great ground-saving trip,” said O’Neill by text. “The owner Steve Young and (assistant) Leandro Mora talked about adding blinkers after his last race. What a great call.”

O’Neill confirmed that if Blended Citizen earns enough points to qualify, he would point the horse toward the Kentucky Derby.

Jockey Albin Jiminez said he was happy with the effort from Pony Up.

“I was trying to get clear, and once he got room, he went through,” Jiminez said. “He didn’t see the winner on the inside, but he finished real good, just came up short.”

Behind Arawak came Zanesville, Mugaritz, Sky Promise, Cash Call Kitten, Ride a Comet, Dreamer’s Point, Magicalmeister, Archaggelos and the 3-1 favorite Hazit, who stumbled out of the gate.

Blended Citizen was the bettors’ second choice at 6-1 and paid $14.40, $7.20 and $5.

Bred in Kentucky by Ray Hanson, Blended Citizen is by Proud Citizen out of the Langfuhr mare Langara Lass. He now has two wins and two thirds in eight starts for owners Greg Hall and Sayjay Racing LLC.

Go Noni Go Earns Kentucky Oaks Points with DRF Bets Bourbonette Oaks Success

Trainer Mike Maker earned his second straight stakes win on the Jeff Ruby Steaks undercard when Three Diamonds Farm’s Go Noni Go took the DRF Bets Bourbonette Oaks (G3) by two lengths over In the Mood. Homemade Salsa, also from the Maker barn, was a neck farther back in third.

Go Noni Go wins the Bourbonette Oaks (G3), Tyler Gaffalione up. Credit: Coady Photography

“She ran a great race last time out at Gulfstream Park, that stakes race (the Sweetest Chant, G3), but she was in a little bit over her head,” Maker said. “We flirted with the idea of running her on dirt but decided to try the Polytrack…and now she’s a stakes winner. She’s a very slight filly, she struggles with keeping weight on, but she’s easy to train.”

Hey Negrita completed the superfecta. Final time for the mile race for 3-year-old fillies was 1:39.09.

The win gave the Get Stormy filly 20 points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1).

“I’ve ridden her before and I’m happy we finally got her a stakes win,” said jockey Tyler Gaffalione. “Everything went as planned. She broke well today, she relaxed, and that was the main thing. Mike and his team did a great job getting her ready for today’s race.”

Go Noni Go broke first but settled second-last in the field of eight as Hey Negrita set the early pace, traveling the first quarter in :25.29 and the half in :48.27. In the Mood drew even with the leader at the half and the two raced side by side until In the Mood took a short lead mid-way on the turn. As those two fought each other, Go Noni Go ranged up to the outside and at the sixteenth pole finally wore down a very game In the Mood. Homemade Salsa made a late run to pass Hey Negrita and claim the show spot.

Hey Negrita stayed in for fourth, followed by the 2-1 favorite Consolida (GB), Mo Flash, Bet She Wins and Queen’s Fate. Classy Music, Child’s Play and Mauk’s Tuff scratched.

Third choice at 7-2, Go Noni Go paid $9.60, $5 and $3.20.

Bred in Kentucky by David Hager II, Go Noni Go is out of the Perfect Soul (IRE) mare Lady Larkspur. She improved her record to 3-1-1 in nine starts.

Maker won the first of his two stakes on the card when Camelot Kitten took the Rushway one race earlier.

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