NEW YORK — Trainer Jonathan Thomas had several thoughts swirling around his mind as he watched Catholic Boy gallop out powerfully after a fourth-place finish in the one-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Nov. 3 at Del Mar.
One: The colt would welcome more ground.
Two: The youngster showed at the end of his third start that he had plenty in the tank for one more race this season.
Three: Why not try the son of turf star More Than Ready for the first time on dirt?
The 1 1/8-mile Remsen Stakes on Saturday at Aqueduct met all of the criteria — and Thomas wound up more than happy that he came.
Catholic Boy placed himself on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve trail when he stormed to a 4 ¾-length win over Avery Island in the 104th running of the Remsen.
“We came over here quietly confident that he would show us a little something,” Thomas said. “But we never expected that.”
The colt completed the distance in 1:52.50 for jockey Manuel Franco. Vouch ran third.
Owned by Robert LaPenta, Catholic Boy is showing signs he can run on anything anywhere. He took his debut, at 7 ½ furlongs, by two lengths at Gulfstream Park on July 20. He was an impressive one-length victor in the Grade 3 With Anticipation Stakes at a mile and a sixteenth at Saratoga Race Course on Aug. 30 to improve to 2-for-2 on grass. That led to a solid, if unspectacular, effort in the Juvenile Turf.
“Early on, he was a turf horse only because there weren’t many route races on the dirt,” Thomas said.
He noted that Catholic Boy will travel to Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., while he contemplates the next move.
“If we’re going to pump the brakes and give him a little breather, it’s certainly the right time of year,” he said. “He’s going to go to Bridlewood, my main training hub, and probably get a couple of quiet weeks and we will go from there.”
Given Catholic Boy’s affinity for Aqueduct, Thomas indicated he may return for one of the Derby prep races. The only certainty is that his next start will be on dirt.