Catholic Boy Returns in Knickerbocker

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Catholic Boy | Sarah Andrew

Multiple Grade I winner Catholic Boy (More Than Ready) faces seven rivals when he returns to the races in the nine-furlong GII Knickerbocker S. over the turf at Belmont Park Monday afternoon. The 4-year-old, who won the GI Belmont Derby over the turf and the GI Travers S. over the main track last year, has been off since finishing second in the July 6 GII Suburban H.

“We’re happy with him at the moment,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said of the bay. “It seemed like a good opportunity to run looking right at us. It’s at home and he’s run well here. We’re just trying to get a gauge on him and see where we’re at. If he runs well, it’s a good platform into a possible Breeders’ Cup start. It’s a bit of a learning experience on where we’re at with him at the moment, but we’ve been happy with his training. We’re taking one step at a time, but it’ll point to where to go.”

Catholic Boy, who is two-for-two over the Belmont lawn, will be making just his third start of the year. He opened his 2019 campaign with a win over the Pimlico turf in the May 18 GII Dixie S.

Godolphin homebred Lucullan (Hard Spun) will be looking to earn the first graded score of his career in the Knickerbocker. The 5-year-old most recently finished third–before being demoted to fourth–in the Sept. 14 GI Woodbine Mile. He won the Lure S. at Saratoga in August.

Matt Schera’s Glorious Empire (Ire) (Holy Roman Emperor {Ire}), winner of last year’s GI Sword Dancer Invitational, ended 2018 with a score in the Dec. 15 GII Fort Lauderdale S., but disappointed when sixth as the favorite in the Sept. 21 GIII Baltimore/Washington International Turf Cup S. in his only subsequent start.

“I hope he’s the same horse that he was last year,” said trainer Jim “Chuck” Lawrence. “Going distances like a mile and an eighth, a mile and three-eighths and a mile and a half are where he’s at his best. A mile is a little too short for him. I was a little disappointed that we went after the horse on the lead last time. He was on the lead at the seven-eighths and went 1:21 flat which was nice to see. Since then, he’s trained forwardly, eating well and he looks good. It all comes down to pace, so we’ll see how it sets up.”

Glorious Empire led at every point of call in his three graded stakes wins, but Lawrence said the trip is up to jockey Edgar Prado, who piloted the Irish-bred to victory in the Fort Lauderdale, as well as a Delaware Park allowance last June.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he rode him the way he did at Delaware last year, which was not on the lead but just off it,” Lawrence said.

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