When Aunt Edna Belle pulled those biscuits out of the oven, man they smelled good. The taste was even better because when that doughy goodness was baking it rose to perfection. That is exactly what Thoroughbred trainer Doug O’Neill hopes to see with his entry for the Belmont Stakes.

Blended Citizen is coming into the third leg of the Triple Crown exactly as his conditioner would like. The light bulb has appeared to come on for this son of Proud Citizen as two wins in his last three starts tells us things are going well for this strapping colt. In his last six trips to the track the Citizen has registered three wins and a third place finish.

“He has always had a ton of stamina and a lot of physical gifts,” says O’Neill. “The great thing about him now is he seems to be maturing mentally. He has started to figure some things out and (jockey) Kyle Frey has been there and done an excellent job of bonding with him.”

Blended Citizen missed the Kentucky Derby because he lacked the qualifying points to make the race. Obviously as a two-time winner of the Derby (2012, 2016) the California based conditioner wanted to get him in the gates on the first Saturday in May, but when it did not happen he focused on the Belmont.

“The Belmont Stakes is one of those races it is an honor to have a starter in,” says O’Neill. “We were deeply disappointed in 2012 when I’ll Have Another had to be scratched out of the race, but now we are thrilled to be back with a really good horse.”

One of the encouraging things for O’Neill coming in has to be the last race for his charge. On May 12, Blended Citizen turned in a stellar performance in winning the mile and an eighth Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park. Running closer to the pace than he has in the past, Blended Citizen put forward a major move in the final furlong and powered home a widening two lengths in front. A win is always good, but the method in which it came was especially encouraging as they ready for the mile and a half “Test of a Champion”.

“I really like that he was closer to the pace because the Belmont Stakes can sometimes have a slower pace on the front end because of the distance,” says O’Neill. “His big move was also a nice thing to see because it was a tactical speed move. I don’t think the distance in the Belmont will be a problem for him, but the pace scenario is where we are concerned. The Peter Pan told us he has some versatility and that is good for a race like this.”

Looming large in the Belmont is of course Justify. Trying to become the thirteenth Triple Crown winner, this front-running phenom is certainly the one to beat. His presence is no doubt intimidating, but as the veteran trainer understands, the only way to win a race like the Belmont is to enter.

“Justify may be way better than everyone else but we are excited for the opportunity to take him on,” says O’Neill. “We are coming in with a horse on the rise and a win over the track. It’s a Triple Crown race and a chance to make history.”

Will Blended Citizen rise up like one of Aunt Edna Belle’s biscuits? On June 9 we will find out.