Catholic Boy Rewards Connections' Faith in Travers

11th at SAR, $1.25mGI Runhappy Travers S. (1 1/4m)Winner: Catholic Boy, c, 3 by More Than Ready

Catholic Boy | Sarah K Andrew

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.–Coming off a gutsy win in the grassy GI Belmont Derby last month, many thought Catholic Boy (More Than Ready) belonged on the turf despite his decisive win in the GII Remsen S. last year at Aqueduct. The bay silenced all doubters at Saratoga Saturday, surging past another many thought was better suited to grass, GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and G2 UAE Derby hero Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy), in the stretch to win the prestigious GI Travers S. by four lengths. It was the second Grade I win for Jonathan Thomas, who went out on his own just last year, and it was the sixth win in the Midsummer Derby for Hall of Famer Javier Castellano. The victory came just two races after Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect) captured the GI Forego S. for Robert LaPenta and Sol Kumin, who also own Catholic Boy in partnership with Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing.

Away well from the outside post in this 10-horse affair at odds of 7-1, Catholic Boy was immediately sent up by Castellano–on a track that had been playing well to speed all day–to press the pacesetting Mendelssohn, remaining glued to that rival's outside hip through opening splits of :23.30 and :47.81. The filly Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d'Oro) tracked from third along the fence with GII Jim Dandy S. winner Tenfold (Curlin) right alongside, while favored champion Good Magic (Curlin) ran two-wide back off the pace in mid-pack.

Catholic Boy inched just a bit closer on the backstretch run and the top two pulled away from their pursuers as Catholic Boy drew even with Mendelssohn entering the turn for home. With no one else within striking distance at the top of the stretch, it was a two-horse race from there, but that didn't last long. Catholic Boy powered clear of Mendelssohn in mid-stretch and stormed home to a decisive victory. Mendelssohn held well for second and the hard-knocking GI Haskell S. runner-up Bravazo (Awesome Again) rallied for third. King Zachary (Curlin), who was last through the first mile, closed strongly to complete the superfecta. Haskell romper Good Magic never looked to be going strongly and called it a day on the backstretch, beating only Queen's Plate victress Wonder Gadot, who faded to last in the stretch.

“It just doesn't get any better,” said Thomas. “I'm just so proud of this horse, and Javier [Castellano] was incredible. We've always believed that he's a top talent despite the surface. He's a much stronger, mature horse and this really shows that patience helps. It means we can survive another year and hopefully train some more like him, but right now, I'm just going to soak this up.”

When asked what's next, Thomas said, “He's going to get a bath and about nine quarts of feed in about two hours, and he's going to get a lot of pets when we get back. I don't know. We're just going to savor this moment and just see how he comes out of it. We've always been very methodical about our approach, and we'll just take it day by day and see where goes. The beauty of it is from a timing perspective, you can go dirt or turf now. Don't know if you go to the [GIII] Hill Prince [S. on the Belmont turf] and back into deeper waters after that.”

“I had a lot of confidence. I went to pray every single Sunday because he's a Catholic boy,” joked Castellano. “I basically enjoyed the ride. I think Jonathan did a great job with the horse. I give all the credit to him. He's so good, that horse. I've never seen a horse like that in my life. He can run on turf, dirt. I think he's amazing. He won Grade I on the turf and a Grade I on the dirt, he's only 3-years-old, you don't see too many like that. I've been blessed to be part of it.”

“I can't put it into words,” said LaPenta. “This has been a lifetime dream for me and to win it with a horse like Catholic Boy, I'm speechless. I didn't expect this to happen. I've been in the game starting in 2001 and I never thought this day would come, and I'm so glad it did today.”

Bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich III and John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy was offered as a short yearling at the 2016 Keeneland January Sale and was originally led out unsold, but was purchased post-RNA from the Taylor Made consignment by Thomas, agent for LaPenta's Whitehorse Stable, for $170,000. A debut winner sprinting on the Gulfstream lawn, he followed suit with a win in this venue's grassy 1 1/16-mile GIII With Anticipation S. and was a respectable fourth to Mendelssohn in the BC Juvenile Turf. Trying turf for the first time at Aqueduct in December, the ridgling romped in the Remsen, setting himself on the GI Kentucky Derby trail.

Runner-up in Tampa's GIII Sam F. Davis S. Feb. 10, Catholic Boy faded to fourth in the Mar. 31 GI Florida Derby and connections later discovered he bled significantly. Given a breather, he returned to the turf in Belmont's GIII Pennine Ridge S. June 2 and looked beat by divisional leader Analyze It (Point of Entry), but clawed his way back to win and captured the Belmont Derby in the exact same fashion.

Pedigree Notes:

One of 83 graded winners for his sire, Catholic Boy is a maternal grandson of GSP Winner's Edge, the dam of SWs Return to Paradise (El Prado {Ire}) and Coya (Deputy Minister). Third dam Lucky Us was responsible for European highweight Lucky Song (Seattle Song), the dam of SW Heritage Hall (Ire) (Fairy King) and SW & GSP Lucky Di (Diesis {GB}). The dam of a 2-year-old colt by Super Saver, Song of Bernadette produced a filly by Carpe Diem in 2017 and foaled an Exaggerator filly Apr. 16.

What They're Saying…

“This was a big improvement. Aidan [O'Brien] planned on bringing him here, and he stuck to his guns. Aidan could have easily run him on the turf at home, but he stuck with it over here. It just shows he's coming back to his best. I'm sure he'll be back [in the United States] soon.” -Tim Comerford, assistant to Aidan O'Brien, on runner-up Mendelssohn

“He's been through the whole series. He's keeping it honest. Nobody's stealing anything, and he's beaten some pretty good horses. I'd like to see it a jump or two longer, he might have gotten second. I liked the way he ran. He continues to add to his income and his resume.” –D. Wayne Lukas on Bravazo (3rd)

“[Good Magic] didn't break well and from there he was in trouble. Given the way the track's playing, you've got to be very forwardly placed the last two days on both surfaces. I didn't feel good right away. We wanted him no worse than third early, that's his running style, and especially given the way the track bias has been. When he didn't get there, I didn't feel too good about it. I was hoping he could recover down the backside and he started to advance, and although he had a wide trip he was moving up a little bit. But [jockey] Jose [Ortiz] reported to me that at the half-mile pole he started to not feel good under him.

Gronkowski, this kind of trip on this track today was just not conducive for him to run a good race. [Jockey] Joel [Rosario] said he was pulling a little bit and I could see that down inside, and he was trying to get him to switch off a little bit, and then once he did he sort of ran into a horse that was stopping a little bit and he was trying to get inside of him. He said he just never had a clear run and never felt he could make up any ground on the track today.” -Trainer Chad Brown on beaten favorite Good Magic (9th) & Gronkowski (8th)

Saturday, Saratoga
RUNHAPPY TRAVERS S. PRESENTED BY NYRA BETS-GI, $1,250,000, Saratoga, 8-25, 3yo, 1 1/4m, 2:01.94, ft.
1–CATHOLIC BOY, 126, r, 3, by More Than Ready
                1st Dam: Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini
                2nd Dam: Winner's Edge, by Seeking the Gold
                3rd Dam: Lucky Us, by Nijinsky II
($170,000 RNA Ylg '16 KEEJAN). O-Robert LaPenta, Madaket
Stables LLC, Siena Farm LLC & Twin Creeks Racing Stables LLC;
B-Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding (KY); T-Jonathan
Thomas; J-Javier Castellano. $670,000. Lifetime Record:
9-6-1-0, $1,842,000. Werk Nick Rating: B. Click for
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.2–Mendelssohn, 126, c, 3, Scat Daddy–Leslie's Lady, by Tricky
Creek. ($3,000,000 Ylg '16 KEESEP). O-Michael Tabor, Susan
Magnier & Derrick Smith; B-Clarkland Farm (KY); T-Aidan P.
O'Brien. $230,000.3–Bravazo, 126, c, 3, Awesome Again–Tiz o' Gold, by Cee's Tizzy. O/B-Calumet Farm (KY); T-D. Wayne Lukas. $125,000.
Margins: 4, 1, 1HF. Odds: 7.10, 13.60, 10.40.
Also Ran: King Zachary, Vino Rosso, Trigger Warning, Tenfold, Gronkowski, Good Magic, Wonder Gadot. Scratched: Meistermind. Click for the chart, the PPs or the free catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.



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