Catholic Boy made a spectacular switch from turf to dirt, rolling to a 4 ¾-length victory in Saturday’s $250,000 Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct, and stamped himself as a Kentucky Derby contender in the process. Owned by Robert LaPenta and trained by Jonathan Thomas, the fast-closing son of More Than Ready was ridden by Manny Franco.
Winner of the grassy With Anticipation (G3) at Saratoga in his second outing, Catholic Boy was exiting a troubled fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) at Del Mar. Franco kept his mount well off the rail from the start, settling a few lengths back in midpack as Bandito established early splits in :23.98 and :48.97, and the bay colt began to advance into contention while four wide on the far turn.
Millionaire Boy took over from the tiring pacesetter rounding the far turn, with 2-1 favorite Avery Island edging closer toward to the front, but Catholic Boy blew past the duo into a clear lead entering the stretch, putting the race away quickly. Catholic Boy reached the mile mark in 1:39.65 with a 3 ½-length advantage and continued to draw away under the wire, completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:52.50.
“We were really happy with how he exited the Breeders’ Cup and, to us, he galloped out very well in that race and indicated that he wanted more ground,” Thomas said. “The day after that race, he was very lively and looked like he exited well, so knowing that he would get the trip and that there was a direct flight here, we brought him here and were able to get two nice works into him on the dirt (at the Belmont Park training track) and he did that well.
“We came over here quietly confident that he would show us a little something, but we never expected that.”
“I just followed the instructions,” Franco added. “The trainer told me to break out of there running and to try and get some position early on into the first turn. The horse put me in a good position and when I called on him to run he just went.”
The Remsen was worth a total of 17 points as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, with Catholic Boy netting his first 10 points toward a berth in a 20-horse starting gate.
Catholic Boy was off as the 4-1 third choice among 10 2-year-olds.
Nashua (G2) winner Avery Island easily held second, 1 ¾ lengths in front of 11-1 Vouch, who raced up close from the start in an even effort. It was another 4 ¾ lengths back to 2-1 second choice Alkhaatam, who closed belatedly from last. Tap Rap Strike, Biblical, Millionaire Runner, Triple Dog Dare, V.I.P. Code and Bandito came next under the wire.
Bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy RNA’ed for $170,000 as a yearling at the 2016 Keeneland January sale. He’s the first winner from the Bernadini mare Song of Bernadette, a daughter of Grade 3 runner-up Winner’s Edge, a daughter of Seeking the Gold.
Catholic Boy has now earned $314,000 from a 4-3-0-0 record. His seamless transition to dirt and affinity for longer distances has Thomas excited about the future.
“Early on, he was a turf horse only because there weren’t many route races on the dirt,” Thomas said. “It was kind of a default sort of thing and he actually breezed fine on the turf so now we have a lot of thinking to do. The key to him as that if he gets a route of ground. Obviously, this time of year our preference would be to have a dirt horse this time of year. I think we definitely have to consider his next start being a dirt race for sure and kind of see where he takes us.”