Belmont Derby: ‘Reliable’ Catholic Boy Breezes, Pletcher Pair ‘Holding Form’

Grade 3 Pennine Ridge winner Catholic Boy put the final touches on his Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational preparations with a four-furlong breeze Saturday morning over the Oklahoma turf course at Saratoga Race Course.

Trained by Jonathan Thomas, the 3-year-old More Than Ready ridgling went in company with Eagle Pass, an unraced 3-year-old gelding, covering the distance in 49.39 seconds with dogs up.

“It was kind of like a maintenance half, but I felt like he did everything well, finished up nicely and galloped out well. All in all, it went nicely,” said Thomas. “More than anything, I wanted to see him moving well, happy, and comfortable in his work. Obviously, he’s got a lot of foundation with numerous runs under his belt. We’re only trying to keep him happy.”

It was Catholic Boy’s third work at Saratoga since capturing the Pennine Ridge in his return to turf on June 2, where he set the early pace and briefly lost the lead in the stretch before digging in to prevail by a neck under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.

“I don’t think you expect efforts like [the Pennine Ridge] from horses often and obviously, you can’t predict scenarios to set up like they do, but he’s a horse we’ve always had a lot of faith in,” said Thomas. “He’s been very reliable for us. As a fan of horse racing, it was a fun race for us to watch. Knowing him and knowing how honest he is in his efforts, in retrospect it wasn’t necessarily a surprise to me that he bellied down and got the job done because that’s just him.”

Thomas said Castellano is set for the return call aboard Catholic Boy, owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stable.

Catholic Boy began his career on the grass, breaking his maiden at first asking and following up with a one-length score in the Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga. His 2-year-old turf campaign culminated with a close fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf November 3 at Del Mar, crossing the wire 1 ½ lengths behind well-regarded European invader Mendelssohn.

The connections opted to make the switch to dirt, and in December Catholic Boy won the Grade 2 Remsen on the main track. He continued to pursue the Kentucky Derby trail in the spring, recording a tough runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park before his return in the Pennine Ridge.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Belmont Derby contenders Channel Cat and Maraud on Saturday morning for their final breezes ahead of next weekend’s Grade 1 contest. Treadway Racing Stable’s Maraud and Calumet Farm’s homebred Channel Cat took to Belmont’s main track and worked a half-mile in company in 48.45 seconds.

“Both I thought went very well,” said Pletcher. “They had good, solid maintenance breezes and seem to be holding form.”

Last time out, Maraud vied for the early lead in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 2 at Penn National Race Course before fading to fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind Hawkish. A $375,000 2-year-old in training purchase, the Blame colt posted a 1 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 American Turf over yielding ground on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. He also owns a win in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park earlier this year and finished a close third in last fall’s Grade 3 Pilgrim, his only previous start at Belmont Park.

Channel Cat, a chestnut son of English Channel, is exiting a third-place finish to Catholic Boy in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge. Prior to that, he was a bothered sixth in the American Turf, running late to finish 4 ¾ lengths behind Maraud.

Pletcher also reported that 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit came out of his Tuesday breeze in good order and remains on target for the Grade 2 Suburban on Stars & Stripes Day.

The post Belmont Derby: ‘Reliable’ Catholic Boy Breezes, Pletcher Pair ‘Holding Form’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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