When you have a horse as versatile as Catholic Boy, there are options galore. After opening his 2019 account with a half-length decision in the Dixie (G2) over the Pimlico turf in May, the four-year-old will return to the dirt Saturday as a strong favorite in the $700,000 Suburban (G2) over 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park.
Winner of the Belmont Derby (G1) on this program last season, the son of More Than Ready moved on to capture the Travers (G1) by an emphatic four lengths. Though up the track in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) that finalized an otherwise noteworthy campaign, it remains the only blip on Catholic Boy’s radar since last summer.
“He came back very well. We were fortunate that he had time off because we wanted to give him time off, not because of any injuries,” trainer Jonathan Thomas said. “He came back great, we were really happy with his effort in the Dixie and subsequently he’s trained well.
“(The Suburban) will have a big say in where we head next or which direction we stay on,” he added. “Hopefully he runs well because we would love to come back and think about a race like the Woodward (G1).”
What the Suburban arguably lacks in depth it makes up in numbers as 10 others were entered. Marconi has gotten the better of Rocketry in all three starts this year, including a half-length decision in the 1 1/2-mile Brooklyn (G2) last time. Grade 1 veteran Pavel was no match in a strong renewal of the Metropolitan H. (G1) last out, but was an impressive third in the 2017 Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) in his last try over the track and trip.
Grade 3 winner Lone Sailor adds blinkers after placing in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1), Oaklawn H. (G2), and New Orleans H. (G2) in his last three, while Preservationist steps up in class after posting three allowance wins in his last four outings for Jimmy Jerkens.
Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Code of Honor makes his return to action Saturday in the $250,000 Dwyer (G3) over one mile. Prior to the Derby, the Shug McGaughey trainee won the Fountain of Youth (G2) and finished third in the Florida Derby (G1) to Maximum Security, whose disqualification from first in the Run for the Roses helped elevate Code of Honor from third to second behind Country House.
“I knew going in that if we didn’t win the Derby we would wait on him. That was our game plan,” McGaughey said. “He’s been training excellent. He’s mentally matured and physically matured and has done everything right since the Derby.”
Making his first start since running fifth in the Holy Bull (G2) in February is Mihos, who rallied to win the $100,000 Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream by a neck in early January, which also a one-turn mile. Rowayton, who chased champion Game Winner in a pair of graded stakes in Southern California last season, exits a solid allowance win over the Belmont main track going 6 1/2 furlongs.
Also lining up are Final Jeopardy, who shortens up after going unplaced in the Wood Memorial (G2) and Peter Pan (G3): Majid, who captured the $150,000 Easy Goer last month on the front end; and multiple stakes-placed Whiskey Echo.
The $300,000 John A. Nerud (G2), formerly the Belmont Sprint Championship, is a seven-furlong “Win & You’re In” Breeders’ Cup Challenge prep for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1). Four-time graded stakes winner Promises Fulfilled will break outside the field of nine after a solid fourth in the Met Mile.
“I’d expect for him to be out there running,” trainer Dale Romans said. “Close by or on the lead.”
Likely to be coming a little farther off the pace are graded veterans Warrior’s Club, Nicodemus, Do Share, and New York Central. Pat On the Back tries open company again after being a leading player against New York-breds around one turn.