More Than Ready 3yo Catholic Boy seized the moment to win the Belmont Derby Gr.1 after an epic duel with Analyze It on Saturday.
The two colts settled down to a titanic struggle reminiscent of their first clash on turf in the Pennine Ridge Stakes Gr.3 in New York last month.
Catholic Boy won that battle after being checked in the straight and he climbed off the canvas again to claim the $1.20 million classic for trainer Jonathan Thomas and managing part-owner Robert LaPenta.
Coolmore Stud’s European raider Hunting Horn (Ire) did best of the beaten brigade without ever threatening in third place.
WATCH the race here: https://youtu.be/uAlCUbozi7M
Catholic Boy is the 23rd Group 1 winner by Vinery legend More Than Ready and follows Funtastic who notched his 22nd in the United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park last Saturday.
Thomas, a former assistant to More Than Ready’s trainer Todd Pletcher, said winning his first Group 1 with Catholic Boy was the pinnacle. “It was a hell of a horse race. He really has an awful lot of heart. I didn’t expect him to fight back this time. I thought we were going to finish a really good second but somehow he got it done.
“I’m happier for the horse because he deserves it. I’m like a proud parent.”
The Travers Stakes Gr.1 at Saratoga on August 25 is an obvious target although the winner’s connections may resist a dirt assignment after his heroics on turf.
“It’s good for the sport to see two of the best 3yo horses run like that,” winning jockey Javiar Castellano said after a perfectly-timed front-running ride. “I’m very respectful of Analyze It but I was on a great horse with a great trainer.”
Catholic Boy was passed-in for $160,000 at the 2016 Keeneland January yearling sale. His dam Song of Bernadette (Bernardini) is a half-sister to Arlington stakes winner Return To Paradise.