10/30/2017 3:16PM

Catholic Boy heading into BC Juvenile Turf the right way

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Barbara D. Livingston
Catholic Boy worked a half-mile over the Del Mar turf in 47.80 on Sunday morning.

DEL MAR, Calif. – When the trainer Jonathan Thomas sends Catholic Boy out in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on Friday he’ll follow along the trail well worn by his old boss, trainer Todd Pletcher.

Pletcher is walking quite a way up that path. He’s had 128 Breeders’ Cup runners. Catholic Boy will be Thomas’s first.

Thomas worked seven years for Pletcher, leaving the operation a little less than five years ago. For the last three years, Thomas has been based at George Isaacs’s Bridlewood Farm in Florida, and it’s there that Catholic Boy has done his Breeders’ Cup preparation. Training off the farm, in Bridlewood’s case, seems more asset than liability.

“It’s a farm atmosphere but it’s kind of turned into a training center,” Thomas said. “We have a seven-eighths mile dirt course, a six-furlong turf course, and a five-eighths uphill gallop.”

The setup is working for Thomas, who easily is having his best year as a trainer with 17 winners from 56 runners. Catholic Boy, a More Than Ready colt owned by Robert LaPenta, not only is Thomas’s lone graded stakes winner, he became his only graded stakes runner in the Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga. The With Anticipation was run Aug. 30 and Catholic Boy hasn’t started since, but the break came by design.

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“John Panagot – Mr. LaPenta’s racing manager – and I just thought giving this horse some time to develop was the right thing to do,” Thomas said Monday morning. “We have him about two weeks off after he shipped back home. The horse has actually grown about an inch and a half and put on 100 pounds since Saratoga.”

It remains to be seen how Catholic Boy races, but on appearance and training, the plan has succeeded. Catholic Boy has caught the eye during morning exercise this week at Del Mar, and he is a robust, handsome colt that looks more mature than his age. His half-mile turf work around dogs on Sunday morning in 47.80 followed a series of Bridlewood breezes that have Thomas comfortable with his horse’s chances.

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“He’s always been a forwardly training horse, and he’s always been very reliable from a breeze standpoint. He shows up and does what you need him to do. He had two very stamina-laden five-eighths quick works with a big gallop-out back home, and I loved his breeze yesterday,” Thomas said. “To me, if he’s good enough, he’s ready.”