Photo: Chelsea Durand/NYRA
That morning, the chestnut son of More Than Ready breezed four furlongs in 48.09 over Belmont Park’s inner turf in company with a 5-year-old allowance winner.
“We were pleased with his breeze this morning,” Thomas said. “We thought he was relaxed and finished up nicely. His time was good, and he recovered well so his preparation for the Pennine Ridge is good. I think the course here will flatter him, and the distance is a little more to his liking than the sharp mile.
“They kind of finished on equal terms but it was sharp. I always like him to start off a little behind, and he kind of joined up at the quarter pole. They came home in 23 flat, a good gallop out. The turf was a little bit soft today, but otherwise it was good and the weather looks like it should comply.”
Catholic Boy found good company in his running partner, which is important, Thomas said, as the Kentucky-bred is known to be a tough mate in the morning.
“She’s a New York-bred filly that’s off an extended layoff that has won twice,” said Thomas. “The plan is to run her , but she’s a very good work filly. You kind of need a horse that can finish with him to ensure a good work. In two key works that he’s had before, he kind of destroyed his workmates, but I like him to keep his composure. It actually went really well today.”
The breeze was the first since arriving from Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Florida.
“It’s his first work off the farm, but Bridlewood has become more of a training center,” Thomas said. “It would mimic more like Palm Beach Downs. There’s a farm component to it, but the training area is like a true training area. He breezed on the turf there, and had a main track work there last week in with a good, long gallop out. It’s gone well. We’re not really cranked, cranked for this. We gave him a little time, but the timing is coming up well, and it’s a good spot to get started for the summer.”
Catholic Boy broke his maiden at Gulfstream in his first start then returned over a month later and rallied to win the Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga. A fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar was topped with 4 ¾-length win in the Grade 2 Remsen at Aqueduct, his debut race on dirt.
The start of his 3-year-old year began on the Triple Crown trail with a runner-up finish to Flameaway in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, but a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby landed the colt back to turf racing.
Even away from the Kentucky Derby trail, Catholic Boy will still face a tough group with one foe being the undefeated Analyze It for owner William H. Lawrence and trainer Chad Brown, winner of the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 2016-17.
“The only hindrance in the Pennine Ridge is that Analyze It is an absolute beast,” Thomas opined. “He’s a tremendous horse trained by a tremendous trainer, but that’s what happens when you run in New York in these races. It’s okay. We’re really pleased with our horse and where we stand. We’re trying to learn a little bit, and it gives us a look for the Belmont Derby, and to see if this is the direction we want to take.”
Analyze It flashed his speed to win his debut by 6 ¼ lengths at Belmont then followed up with wire to wire 4 ¼-length win in the one-mile Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar. The Point of Entry colt stalked cheap speed in the Grade 3 Transylvania Stakes and won by 5 ¼ lengths over a yielding 1 1/6 miles at Keeneland.
“He got the race he needed,” Brown said. “He’s had plenty of time since and we hope he takes another step forward. All around, he’s a real special horse.”
Also expected for Pennine Ridge are Hawkish, Untamed Doman, Channel Cat, Irish Territory, Up the Ante, and Archaggelos.