‘Headstrong’ Dual-Surface Star Catholic Boy To Stay On Dirt, Point For Woodward

by | 07.07.2019 | 4:59pm
Catholic Boy following his 2019 win in the G2 Dixie Stakes at Pimlico

Robert V. LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Catholic Boy earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for his runner-up effort to Preservationist in Saturday's Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban, a 1 1/4 mile test on Big Sandy.

Last year, the dual-surface star won the turf Grade 1 Belmont Derby and Grade 1 Runhappy Travers in a tremendous sophomore season. The 4-year-old More Than Ready ridgling opened his campaign with a win on the grass in the Grade 2 Dixie at Pimlico and was battling for the lead on Saturday with the eventual winner in a prominent display.

Trainer Jonathan Thomas said Catholic Boy was in good order on Sunday morning.

“Overall, he's pretty good. He's got a couple little bangs and scratches but nothing big,” said Thomas. “Now that the dust has settled, I thought overall it was a really good effort. Preservationist ran a 108 Beyer and we ran a 102, which is his second lifetime best. We were giving the winner six pounds and it wasn't the ideal set up. I thought we ran well.”

Thomas tipped his cap to trainer Jimmy Jerkens for Saturday's breakthrough performance from the lightly-raced Preservationist.

“Preservationist was superb. Jimmy has done an incredible job,” said Thomas. “I don't think that can be downplayed with a horse that's 6-years-old and had numerous stops and starts. We were just second best yesterday.”

Thomas said Catholic Boy is likely to stay on dirt for his next outing, eyeing a cut back to nine furlongs in the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on August 31 at Saratoga – – which is shaping up as a potential rematch with Preservationist, who also came out of the Suburban in good order.

“The Woodward will be our major target,” said Thomas. “While we think he's a mile and a quarter horse, I feel more confident cutting him back to a mile and an eighth now more than ever just off of the tactical speed he seems to have.”

Catholic Boy was keen in the early stages of the Suburban under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, sitting in second position through the opening quarter-mile before taking a one-length lead through a half-mile in 48.09.

“I thought he was a little headstrong,” said Thomas. “Javier said he was a little funny about the kickback and he jumped up on the bridle and worked his way out. I would have preferred to sit behind Preservationist and make one run, but it didn't work out that way for whatever reason. I don't think it helped, but I don't know that it cost us the race. Going a mile and a quarter you need to be able to conserve some energy and we gave up a bit of that yesterday.

“He's lightly-raced on the year,” added Thomas. “It's his second time back and I think there's a lot of room for improvement. You're always going to learn through racing and we learned a couple things about him yesterday that maybe we'll have to tweak.”

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