With only one start through the first two weeks of the Belmont spring/summer meet, trainer Jonathan Thomas will look to increase his productivity in the coming weeks with multiple Grade 1-winners Diversify and Catholic Boy preparing to return to action with several other stakes contenders in tow as well.
Diversify, the 2018 New York-bred Horse of the Year, was previously conditioned by late trainer Rick Violette, and his assistant Melissa Cohen, who recently joined Thomas' barn to head his New York division.
Diversify, who won three of five starts last year including graded stakes wins in the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga Race Course and the Grade 2 Suburban at Belmont, visited the Belmont training track on Saturday morning, breezing three furlongs in 37 seconds flat with exercise rider Georgee Givovich aboard.
It was the first breeze of the year for Diversify and Thomas said he was pleased with what he saw.
“I was really surprised,” said Thomas. “He's a quiet horse galloping in the morning and I thought he'd maybe need a little slow three-eighths [work] and he ended up breezing in 37 [seconds], very well on the muscle. He came back to the barn and cooled out quickly.
“I thought maybe we were off schedule just because it took us a while to get him going,” continued Thomas. “But from what I saw today I think we're, if not on schedule, maybe even ahead of schedule.”
Owned by Ralph and Lauren Evans, Thomas said the 6-year-old gelded son of Bellamy Road would target a start sometime before the spring/summer meet concludes at Belmont heading into Saratoga.
“I'd love to get a start into him here before Saratoga,” said Thomas. “Rick did a tremendous job with this horse and we're the beneficiaries of Rick and Melissa's hard work. We're just honored to have him and hopefully we can continue his good work.”
Catholic Boy, who last year earned a pair of Grade 1 wins on both the turf and dirt in his 3-year-old campaign, is nearing his way to a potential return.
Last year, Catholic Boy triumphed on the dirt in the Runhappy Travers and on the green in the Belmont Derby. He worked five furlongs in 1:02.19 on Saturday with Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard on the inner turf in company with stablemate Osare.
Afterwards, Thomas said a start next Saturday in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico Race Course remains under consideration for Catholic Boy to make his 2019 debut as well as long term goals to target the Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban at Belmont on July 6 as well as the Grade 1, $1 million Whitney Handicap on August 3 and Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on August 31 at Saratoga.
“The Dixie is possibly a soft target. We're going to talk to the owners and our other partners about some other options. We could, off of that, from what I saw today possibly be ready for the Dixie. We'll know in a couple of days,” said Thomas. “We'd love to target races like the Suburban and even the Whitney or Woodward would be massive targets. The fact that he's been productive as a 2-year-old and 3-year-old in Saratoga, to do something nice up there this summer would be great.”
Speaking on Osare, a 4-year-old stakes winning filly by Medaglia D' Oro and half to multiple graded stakes winner Arrogate, Thomas said he was excited for her to make her first start of the year after closing out her 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Dueling Grounds Oaks at Kentucky Downs.
Thomas said the Searching Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico is a possible target.
“I was really pleased with her,” said Thomas. “They're both targeting the same weekend and both coming off of big breaks. They coincided form a training schedule perspective. While I thought he was maybe getting the better of her on the dirt the past two weeks, I thought she more than held her own on the turf today. She breezed really well.
“There's the Searching at Pimlico going a mile and a half and there's an allowance race here at Belmont on Sunday,” added Thomas. “We'll look at both spots and see which makes the most sense and then target, we'll see what happens.”
Thomas confirmed 3-year-old filly Entirely,who ran third in last year's Grade 3 Matron for Augustin Stable, would most likely target a start in next Sunday's $100,000 Soaring Softly after breezing four furlongs in 47.88 seconds in company with Xenobia on the inner turf.
“I thought she went nicely,” said Thomas. “She breezed with an older filly called Xenobia and they breezed really well. They came home in 23 [seconds] and change and galloped out well. I thought she had a really solid breeze and did everything nicely. We're on target for the Soaring Softly with her.”
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