Six-time graded stakes-winner Catholic Boy came out of his breeze on Saturday in good order and is slated to make his next start in the Grade 2, $300,000 Kelso Handicap on September 21 at Belmont Park, trainer Jonathan Thomas said Sunday.
The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready, who has won Grade 1 stakes on both turf and dirt, including the 2018 Runhappy Travers, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Belmont's dirt training track yesterday and remains on target to race for the first time since running second in the Grade 2 Suburban on July 6 on Big Sandy.
Catholic Boy, wearing blinkers with regular jockey and Hall of Famer Javier Castellano aboard, recorded his first workout at Belmont since the run-up to the Suburban. He had three workouts at Saratoga in August before Thomas decided to skip the Grade 1 Woodward and instead look to the fall meet.
“We were really pleased with his breeze yesterday and it looked like he came out of it well,” Thomas said. “The Kelso is certainly a target that we're going to go after.”
The 39th running of the Kelso is a one-turn mile on the main track and the first time Catholic Boy has run at the distance since finishing fourth in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar. Since then, he has won the 2017 Grade 2 Remsen and the Travers on dirt and the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge and the Grade 1 Belmont Derby last year on turf.
Thomas cited the Kelso's timing, which would also keep open the possibility of running in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile or the Breeders' Cup Classic in November at Santa Anita.
“We felt the timing of the race was good for where we are in the training,” Thomas said. “It's also in our backyard and it makes sense to try it.”
In two starts this year, Catholic Boy, owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables, won the Grade 2 Dixie at 1 1/16 miles on the Pimlico Race Course turf and returned to the main track in running second to Preservationist in the 1 ¼-mile Suburban, earning a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. Only his 104 for the Travers win last year was higher in his 12-race career.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables' Peaceful made her stakes debut on Friday, running fourth in the Christiecat for 3-year-old fillies on the Belmont turf.
Unraced as a juvenile, the Declaration of War filly ran second in her debut on June 16 at Monmouth Park and broke her maiden on July 13 at Saratoga before stepping up in class on Belmont's Opening Day.
“We're very proud of her. The ground was probably softer than she liked,” Thomas said. “I think it might have compromised her a little bit. We'll make no excuse for that, but we're proud of her effort anyway. We're not sure what we'll do next, we'll look at the stakes schedule. We can bring her back [in an allowance] at Belmont going three-quarters.”
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