(Catholic Boy was trained by Jonathan Thomas / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the NYRA Media Team:

Thomas barn off to a flying start in 2021; Nicky the Vest to work Monday for G2 Wood Memorial

Nicky the Vest, trained by Jonathan Thomas for owner Robert LaPenta, matched a career-best 83 Beyer last out in a dominant 11 3/4-length score in the $100,000 Gander, a one-turn mile for New York-bred sophomores on Valentine’s Day at the Big A.

In victory, Nicky the Vest, bred in the Empire State by Highclere, became the first stakes winner for his sire Runhappy. Purchased for $110,000 at the 2019 OBS Yearling Sale, Nicky the Vest is perfect through two starts which includes a 3 1/4-length score on debut in December going the one-turn mile at Aqueduct.

Nicky the Vest covered a half-mile in 49.95 seconds on the Belmont dirt training track on February 26 and Thomas said the bay colt will return to the work tab on Monday as preparations continue for the Grade 2 Wood Memorial presented by Resorts World Casino on April 3.

“He’s doing well. He’ll breeze tomorrow and so far we’re on target for the Wood,” said Thomas. “He came out of the Gander well and his energy level was good. The weather has been a little contentious the past couple weeks, so we didn’t want to take having a nice track for granted and we went ahead and got him back a week earlier than we’d anticipated.”

Thomas said he will look to provide the lightly-raced Nicky the Vest with valuable experience in upcoming works.

“I might try next week to give him two horses as a target and give him the opportunity to take a little kickback,” said Thomas. “You never know if he might need to overcome a trip with that kind of scenario. But we’ll also focus on some longer works so he doesn’t come in too fresh and settles well.

“It’s exciting. He’s undefeated and he’s done it by open lengths thus far,” added Thomas. “Every task from here on out is only going to get incrementally harder, but we like him a lot and we’re going to give him every chance to succeed.”

Thomas, a multiple Grade 1-winning conditioner, is off to a flying start in 2021 with a record of 22-10-3-3 and purse earnings of $285,445. He credits that success to patient owners and being able to focus solely on training at Belmont.

“Our owners have been patient and have let these horses develop into their 3-year-old years,” said Thomas. “A lot of these horses have longer winded pedigree and that’s something we don’t have control over. You may want to debut them in August, but it’s not the right thing to do and probably wouldn’t run their best anyway. The barn is cycling in the right way and we’ve had a really good couple of months.”

Thomas sent out a pair of promising maiden winners for Augustin Stable at Turfway Park earlier in the week in Be Here and Siraneuse.

Be Here, a Kentucky homebred by Ghostzapper out of 2009 Champion Female Sprinter Informed Decision, earned a 62 Beyer for her 1 1/2-length score in a one-mile maiden special weight on March 4. The sophomore grey colt, who was prepared at Belmont, earned a 62 Beyer.

Thomas said the colt will likely be nominated to the Wood Memorial.

“The Wood offers some opportunity,” said Thomas. “He seems to be very stamina laden and going to a mile and an eighth off of that, I wouldn’t be as worried. Obviously, you’d like a little more seasoning but it isn’t out of the question.”

Siraneuse, a sophomore filly by Tapit, was purchased for $450,000 at the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Bred in Kentucky by Vegso Racing Stable and Tapit Syndicate, Siraneuse earned a 78 Beyer for a rallying five-length score in a one-mile maiden special weight on March 3.

Thomas said Turfway’s Tapeta surface offered both young horses an alternative debut experience.

“Be Here doesn’t act like a sprinter,” said Thomas. “The more ground he gets the better he will be. Also, after training here at Belmont, the verdict was out on whether or not he’s a dirt horse. Obviously, we have no turf racing here on the immediate horizon, so I wanted to get him started.

“The same can be said of the filly, Siraneuse. Both horses were coming out of good works and those races were available,” continued Thomas. “I’m not certain they’re dirt horses yet and I wanted to be careful and not debut them on the dirt and have a bad experience. There’s a chance both will end up on the grass in New York.”

Last week’s scores built on earlier Turfway success for Thomas with Augustin Stable sophomore filly homebreds Into Vanishing and Song of Innocence.

By Into Mischief and out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Vanishing, Into Vanishing graduated at third asking in December at Turfway and followed with a six-length optional-claiming win on January 15 at the Florence, Kentucky oval garnering a 70 Beyer in the one-mile trip.

Song of Innocence, by Munnings and out of the Pulpit mare Remember Then, rallied from seventh for a one-length score in a one-mile maiden special weight on January 29.

Thomas said Siraneuse, Into Vanishing and Song of Innocence will be nominated to the Grade 3, $250,000 Gazelle at nine furlongs on April 3 at the Big A offering 100-40-20-10 Kentucky Oaks qualifying points to the top-four finishers. The veteran conditioner also noted at least one is likely to enter the one-mile Bourbonette Oaks on March 14 at Turfway.

Thomas said Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert V. LaPenta’s Gale has been retired following a 2 3/4-length score in the Geisha, a one-mile event for Maryland-bred or sired fillies and mares on January 16 at Laurel Park.

The 4-year-old Tonalist filly, who finished fifth in the Grade 3 Comely at the Big A in November, matched a career-best 86 Beyer for her first stakes score.

“She got really unlucky in the Comely,” said Thomas. “She went into that race as good as we’ve ever had her but it was an unfortunate trip and break. The whole thing was done before it got started.

“It was nice to get her a stakes win,” added Thomas. “She’s a really pretty filly and from a talent perspective it was nice for her to go out a stakes winner. She has been retired and will be a broodmare. She’s down in Kentucky at Gainesway.”