Catholic Boy stole the show with a four-length romp in the 149th running of the Travers Stakes Gr.1 over 2000m at Saratoga on Saturday.
“They should make a movie about this horse…it’s unbelievable,” managing part-owner Robert LaPenta said at the presentation of the Mid-Summer Derby. “This race has always been my dream. Even more than the Kentucky Derby.”
LaPenta has been a Saratoga regular since the 1960s and was back at the Spa following a battle with Legionnaire’s Disease earlier this year. He bought the son of More Than Ready for $170,000 at the 2016 Keeneland January yearling sale.
The Vinery legend sired the Travers winner from Song of Bernadette (Bernardini) who was named after an Oscar award-winning movie from 1944. “He’s More Than Ready squared,” an emotional LaPenta told a trackside crowd of 50,000. “He’s great on turf and I think he’s great on the dirt.”
Catholic Boy stalked Mendelssohn and then gradually drew clear of the UAE Derby winner in the straight. “I basically enjoyed the ride,” Javier Castellano said after piloting his sixth win in the Travers. “He’s a great horse and is all heart.”
His earnings stand at $1.84 million and his grand-final this year will be the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Gr.1 at Churchill Downs on November 3.
The Jonathan Thomas-trained rig first came to attention winning last year’s With Anticipation Stakes Gr.3 at Saratoga and he signed off at two with a sizzling victory in the Remsen Stakes Gr.2 at Aqueduct.
Catholic Boy was sidelined from the Road to the Kentucky Derby in April but bounced back with wins in the Pennine Ridge Stakes Gr.3 and Belmont Derby Gr.1 in New York. “He was going through a growth spurt earlier this year but he’s a more mature, stronger horse now,” Thomas said. “I thought we were home when I saw him traveling nicely to the three-eighths (600m) pole. That’s where he starts to get strong.
“We owed it to him and the clients to have a shot. You only get one chance to win a Travers. It will have significant ramifications in the stud arena and that’s part of our job as trainers.”