ELMONT, NY – After just missing out on qualifying for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Jonathan Thomas’ Catholic Boy returned to the turf in terrific fashion on Saturday, getting passed in the stretch but somehow re-rallying strong enough to get the victory in the Grade 3, $200,000 Pennine Ridge Stakes at Belmont Park.
Breaking sharply from the inner-most starting gate under Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, Catholic Boy blitzed out to a large early lead while posting splits of :23.71, :47.76, and 1:10.17. Nearing the far turn, Untamed Domain and the undefeated 1-5 favorite Analyze It closed the gap, though by midway through the turn, Untamed Domain began retreating. Cutting hard off of the turn, Analyze It began to inch past Catholic Boy along the outside, and in mid-stretch, he had gained enough of advantage that jockey Jose Ortiz was able to cross over. Suddenly checking up and receiving kickback seemed to either irk or wake up Catholic Boy. With newfound gusto, Castellano tipped him outside, where he commenced a furious rally. In the shadow of the wire, Catholic Boy was able to stick a neck past his rival to win in a final time of 1:45.78 for the 1 1/8-mile race over the inner turf course.
“My horse has such a good heart,” Castellano said. “You don’t see too many horses like that when you check at the top of the stretch and they come back and win the race, especially at a mile and 1/8. I give a lot of credit to the horse and trainer. I didn’t think he would win. (After checking) I was just riding for second place, but Analyze It started to stop and my horse continued, continued, continued. I thought, ‘I’m not going to win the race,’ but it worked out great.”
Following the finish, the stewards launched an inquiry into the stretch run, while Ortiz lodged an objection against Castellano, alleging interference. The stewards only needed a few minutes to decide not to alter the order of finish.
“He’s been nothing but reliable,” Thomas said. “We have asked him a lot of questions. I’m proud of his effort and his tenacity. We came into the race thinking we were going to finish second, and we were going to be happy with that. But this horse wants more ground. He just wants more ground on the turf.”
Over 4 lengths behind the top pair, Channel Cat outlasted a badly-fading Untamed Domain for third, while Irish Territory was never a factor and finished fifth. Up the Ante, Archaggelos, and Hawkish (cross-entered in the Grade 2 Penn Mile Stakes) were all scratched.
Catholic Boy’s win was his first since taking the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes over the Aqueduct dirt last December and his second turf stakes score after winning the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga last summer. The 3-year-old son of More Than Ready improved his record to 7-4-1-0 with career earnings of $522,000 for owners Robert V. LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stables. Watch for him to return next month in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby.
Catholic Boy returned $10.80 to win, $2.90 to place, and $2.30 to show. Analyze It brought back $2.10 to place and $2.10 to show, while Channel Cat paid $3.40 to show.