Grass Greener for Catholic Boy

Sunday, June 3rd 2018
By T.D. Thornton ~ TDN

Five months ago Catholic Boy (More Than Ready) was my somewhat unorthodox selection to anchor the No. 1 spot on the season’s inaugural TDN Derby Top 12 rankings. After a commanding dirt win in the nine-furlong GII Remsen S. at Aqueduct, Catholic Boy looked uncomfortable pressing the pace despite a runner-up try in his 2018 debut at Tampa Bay Downs, then he reportedly bled badly in the GI Florida Derby. His Classic aspirations were over before they really even got started.

As a Grade II winner last year on the grass (and a close-up fourth in the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf), it only seemed natural for Catholic Boy’s connections to re-aim for grass races once the colt was ready to return to training, and Saturday’s GIII Pennine Ridge S. at Belmont seemed as good a spot as any to launch a comeback. The only problem was that undefeated ‘TDN Rising Star’ Analyze It(Point of Entry) was aiming for the same race, and he figured to be about as solid a 1-5 shot as you can get.

Apparently, someone forgot to confess that tote board tidbit to Catholic Boy. The 4.4-1 second choice in the betting boldly bounded straight for the lead (a significant tactics change considering trainer Jonathan Thomas spent a great deal of time earlier in the spring explaining how Catholic Boy does his best running from much farther back) while Analyze It stalked menacingly just a few strides behind.

By the time the two favorites turned into the lane together, it appeared as if Analyze It would prevail based on the body language of the two. Significant shoulder-to-shoulder muscling for position between the three-sixteenths pole and the furlong marker had appeared to wear down Catholic Boy. But just when it appeared a certainty that Analyze It would wrest control for good, the leader lost a bit of spark a sixteenth from the wire, and Catholic Boy re-rallied on the outside to nail him in the final few jumps and win by a neck (this is the type of frantic finish you will either love or loathe when in-race betting finally comes to America).

“My horse has such a good heart,” winning jockey Javier Castellano said after the race. “You don’t see too many horses like that when you check at the top of the stretch and they come back and win the race, especially at a mile and an eighth. I give a lot of credit to the horse and trainer. I didn’t think he would win. [After checking] I was just riding for second place, but Analyze It started to stop and my horse continued, continued, continued. I thought ‘I’m not going to win the race,’ but it worked out great.”

A rematch could be in the cards for the GI Belmont Derby Invitational on July 7.


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