SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY – Already a proven Grade 1 winner on turf, trainer Jonathan Thomas’ star pupil Catholic Boy made history Saturday, becoming the first horse in 117 years to win from the 11 post in the Grade 1, $1,250,000 Runhappy Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets at Saratoga.
Breaking well from the far outside under Javier Castellano, Catholic Boy was able to clear most of the foes to his inside and ran just off of early leader Mendelssohn. Together, the duo slowly separated themselves from the rest of the field over the course of the opening mile through splits of :23.30, :47.81, 1:11.97, and 1:36.29. Swinging wide through the far turn and onto the front stretch, Catholic Boy was set down for the drive home and swept past the pace-setter with relative ease, drawing off in the final furlong to win the 1 1/4-mile main track event by 4 lengths in a final time of 2:01.94.
“It just doesn’t get any better,” said Thomas, who was making the first Travers start of his young but accomplished training career. “I’m just so proud of this horse, and Javier was incredible. We’ve always believed that he’s a top talent despite the surface. He’s a much stronger, mature horse and this really shows that patience helps.”
A late run from Bravazo was enough to carry him to third, just a length off of Mendelssohn. King Zachary launched a similar rally from the rear and took fourth over Vino Rosso, while Trigger Warning outran Tenfold for sixth. The Chad Brown-trained duo of Gronkowski and Good Magic, who were the second and first choices at the betting window, respectively, failed to run to their odds and finished a disappointing seventh and eighth, outlasting only Wonder Gadot, the field’s lone filly. Meistermind was scratched.
“(Good Magic) didn’t break well, and from there, he was in trouble,” Brown said. “Given the way the track’s playing, you’ve got to be very forwardly placed the last two days on both surfaces. I didn’t feel good right away. We wanted him no worse than third early, that’s his running style, and especially given the way the track bias has been. When he didn’t get there, I didn’t feel too good about it.
“Gronkowski, this kind of trip on this track today was just not conducive for him to run a good race,” Brown continued. “(Jockey) Joel (Rosario) said he was pulling a little bit and I could see that down inside, and he was trying to get him to switch off a little bit, and then once he did, he sort of ran into a horse that was stopping a little bit, and he was trying to get inside of him. He said he just never had a clear run and never felt he could make up any ground on the track today.”
Catholic Boy’s win – his second straight Grade 1 score and third straight overall – improved his overall record to 9-6-1-0. The 3-year-old ridgling son of More Than Ready increased his lifetime bankroll to $1,842,000 for co-owners Robert V. LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stables.
“I can’t put it into words,” said LaPenta. “This has been a lifetime dream for me, and to win it with a horse like Catholic Boy, I’m speechless. I didn’t expect this to happen. I’ve been in the game starting in 2001 and I never thought this day would come, and I’m so glad it did today.”
Catholic Boy returned $16.20 to win, $8.20 to place, and $5.80 to show. Mendelssohn brought back $12 to place and $8.70 to show, while Bravazo paid $6.60 to show.