Trainer With Virginia Ties Captures The Grade 2 Remsen Stakes Saturday At Aqueduct

Congratulations to trainer Jonathan Thomas and Catholic Boy for a big win in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes December 2nd. Jonathan is the son of Virginia Equine Alliance (VEA) Track Superintendent John Dale Thomas. The following appeared in  

It remains to be seen if Catholic Boy prefers turf or dirt, but trainer Jonathan Thomas is surely confident of something the 2-year-old son of More Than Ready  relishes. As far as distance goes, it’s the more the merrier for owner Robert LaPenta’s juvenile colt.

Tested on dirt and the 1 1/8-mile trip for the first time, Catholic Boy handled the surface switch with aplomb Dec. 2 as he surged to a decisive 4 3/4-length victory in the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2), as his connections’ favorite color switched from the green of turf to the brown of Aqueduct Racetrack‘s main track.

Jonathan Thomas’s Catholic Boy won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes after switching to the dirt surface. Photo courtesy of Coglianese Photography.

“We came over quietly confident he would show us a little something, but we never expected that,” Thomas said.

Catholic Boy’s first three starts came on turf and he was pleasantly successful, winning the With Anticipation Stakes (G3T) at Saratoga Race Course and finishing a close fourth at a mile in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T), when he rallied from ninth to finish 1 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Mendelssohn at Del Mar.

“He galloped out well at the Breeders’ Cup, which indicated to us he wants some more ground. The day after the race, he was very lively and looked like he exited it well,” said Thomas, who added Catholic Boy was originally tested on grass because of a lack of route races on dirt. “I hate to say it, but the Breeders’ Cup acted like a prep for us.”

Catholic Boy won the With Anticipation Stakes earlier this year. Photo courtesy of Chelsea Durand.

Looking ahead, Thomas voiced uncertainty about the colt’s next start, but indicated it will probably be on dirt. As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Remsen netted 10-4-2-1 points to its top four finishers.

“Now we have a lot of thinking to see where he takes us. At this time of year, we’d prefer to have a dirt horse,” Thomas said. “I think we have to consider the next race to be a dirt race for sure, and then we’ll see where it takes us. We’re going to pump the brakes and send him back to Bridlewood Farm (where he was broken) to give him a couple of quiet weeks. We’ll sit back and do what’s best by him.”

Catholic Boy and jockey Manuel Franco were sixth in the field of 10 after an opening quarter-mile in :23.98, as a foursome of Bandito, Millionaire Runner, Avery Island and Vouch were grouped together on the front end. With a half-mile going in :48.97, Catholic Boy swept four-wide on the turn to grab the lead and then pulled away to a safe 3 1/2-length advantage at the eighth pole. The final time was 1:52.50.

In winning for the third time in four starts, Catholic Boy, the third-choice in the wagering, improved his career earnings to $314,000. He was bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding and was purchased privately by his connections after he was a $170,000 RNA from the 2016 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. He returned $10.20, $5, and $3.70 across the board.

Godolphin Racing’s Avery Island, the 2-1 favorite, held on for second, 1 3/4 lengths ahead of Lael Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s Vouch. Shadwell Stables’ Alkhaatam was another 4 3/4 lengths behind in fourth after a troubled start.

“I think (jockey Joe Bravo) felt like (Avery Island) learned a lot today,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Goldolphin USA. “Obviously you want to win, but sometimes you make a step forward just from learning. He was down on the inside, got dirt in his face, and he took it all well. Certainly, the horse that won has some credentials on his own.”

Thunder Gulch, who won the 1994 Remsen, stands as the last horse to win both the Remsen and the Kentucky Derby (G1).