(Catholic Boy romps to victory in G2 Remsen / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

The first time I had the opportunity to see the talented 2-year-old colt Catholic Boy in person was the week leading up to this year’s Breeders’ Cup at Del Mar. It was early morning, and as soon as I saw him on the track, I searched for the name on the saddle cloth.

And, I scribbled on my note pad:

This was no boyHe looked like a man. He galloped like a talent. And, he stood out — as in outstanding.

Although Catholic Boy didn’t get to show all those traits in the 2017 version of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he did on Saturday at Aqueduct in the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes. In his first ever try over the dirt surface, Catholic Boy was the perfect, er, halter boyrunning off to an ultra-impressive, eye-popping, and, perhaps, future defining victory.

He showed out. He showed off. And, he showed that he just may have all the right ingredients to let his young trainer, Jonathan Thomas, and his owner, Rober LePenta, have an early Christmas wish list that may include roses in May.

“He came out of his race in good order and looked great this morning, so all-in-all, he exited that in good shape,” Thomas told NYRA press officials on Sunday morning. “It confirmed our belief that he could get the [distance]. We had seen some indicators that he could handle the dirt in the mornings, and he obviously confirmed that he could do it as well in the afternoons. He’s always been a very reliable horse and has shown up in every scenario we put him in.”

Catholic Boy won his debut on July 20 at Gulfstream Park before winning the Grade 3 With Anticipation by one length over Irish Territory on August 30 at Saratoga Race Course, which marked Thomas’ first career graded stakes win.

After overcoming a poor start, the More Than Ready colt finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup, with Voting Control edging him by a head for third in the one-mile course. In the Remsen, Catholic Boy settled four wide in mid pack before going wide into the upper stretch and clearing away to outkick Avery Island.

“He’s been very versatile. With the exception of his first start, he’s had some form of a troubled trip and seems to shrug it off and deliver,” Thomas said.

Catholic Boy will be shipped back to Thomas’ base at Bridlewood in Ocala, Florida in the next two or three days, said Thomas, who added he might give the Kentucky bred a rest before his 3-year-old campaign.

And, he sure earned a little R&R. After all, Catholic Boy had just rallied from sixth to win the Remsen by 4 ¾ lengths and earned a steady list of impressive speed numbers for his efforts over 1 1/8 miles on the main track.

For all the world, it looked like a horse that would just love 11/4 miles on the first Saturday in May.

“We’ll let the dust settle,” Thomas said. “It’s a good time of year to get a few weeks to freshen up, so we’ll allow him to do that. As the spring comes around, we won’t have the same opportunity.”

Thomas was an assistant to trainer Todd Pletcher before going off on his own, and he credited the seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer for his support.

“He’s been instrumental in helping me,” Thomas said. “The horse actually shipped from Del Mar to Todd’s barn, and he’s been super helpful. Him and his team and [assistant] Byron Hughes have been so helpful in this horse’s training the last couple of weeks. I worked for Todd for a long time, so to have his guidance in all this has been great.

“I’ve also had a great owner who has allowed us to buy horses and make some decisions,” he added. “We have a really good team at home, and the horse has done everything we asked him to do. As someone who is responsible for his care, my biggest nightmare is putting him in a scenario where he’s over his head or a situation where he won’t be able to shine. So, I’m proud of the horse.”


(Wonder Gadot winning the Demoiselle / Photo Courtesy of NYRA)

Wonder Gadot Will Be Pointed Towards Kentucky Oaks:

Gary Barber’s Grade 2 Demoiselle winning filly Wonder Gadot will get some time away from the races according to trainer Mark Casse, while he and his team map out a plan to get to the Grade 1, $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks on May 4.

The 2-year-old Ontario-bred filly by Medaglia d’Oro earned her third victory from five starts by winning the Demoiselle by 3 ¾ lengths, adding $150,000 to boost her earnings to $312,973.

“She was great this morning,” Casse said. “We’re going to wait a day or two then take her back to the training center, and from there we’re going to map out some sort of plan to get her to the Oaks. We know she loves Churchill Downs. She’s trained over it real well, so that’s a plus.

“So we’ll look at the Oaks as our goal then work backwards from there. Could be back in New York, could be California, maybe even Oaklawn to get her there. We have four good fillies for Mr. Barber, so we’ll try to keep them separated, which is not an easy thing to do, but it’s a great problem to have.”

The Demoiselle was her first race back since her troubled sixth place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Del Mar. Following the race, Casse sent Wonder Gadot back to the farm after the Breeders’ Cup instead of shipping straight to Aqueduct. The move may have proved to help her performance, especially after running in her toughest race to date.

“I was so disappointed in the Breeders’ Cup,” Casse said. “It’s one thing when you have a horse and they get beat, win, lose or draw, you had your chance, and it didn’t happen. She never had a chance, and she didn’t get to show it. When you get the chance to get to a race like the Breeders’ Cup, and you don’t get a chance to show what you have, it’s frustrating.
“In the end, we’re really happy just to have the chance to have a good filly like her.”

Owner Gary Barber, who works in the film industry, named the filly after the actress Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman.