08/30/2017 6:07PM

First stakes victory for trainer Jonathan Thomas as Catholic Boy takes With Anticipation

Barbara D. Livingston
Catholic Boy ran down maiden Irish Territory to post a one-length victory in Wednesday's Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – As a former assistant to trainers Todd Pletcher and Christophe Clement, Jonathan Thomas helped prepare a lot of winners at Saratoga without much notoriety.

On Wednesday, Thomas got to bask in the spotlight himself after Catholic Boy got off the rail turning for home, split horses in midstretch, and ran down Irish Territory to win the Grade 3, $150,000 With Anticipation Stakes at Saratoga. Irish Territory, a maiden, finished second by three-quarters of a length over Untamed Domain.

Seabhac, another maiden, finished fourth and was followed, in order, by Earth, Morrison, Evaluator, the 2-1 favorite, Trumpi, Nauti Buoy, Mach Tree and Fort Wise Treaty.

The win was the second in two starts for Catholic Boy, a son of More Than Ready owned by Robert LaPenta. It was the 20th career win for Thomas, his first in a stakes race.

“It’s everything,” Thomas, 37, said. “Ask me tomorrow, I can really tell you. It’s pretty amazing.”

Thomas worked for Pletcher for 6 1/2 years, leaving his employ about four years ago. For the last few years, he has been breaking yearlings at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, and recently has been the listed trainer of several horses who have started their careers in Florida. He is 12 for 43 this year.

Catholic Boy won his debut by two lengths at Gulfstream Park on July 20, and with no real place to run him and Thomas believing Catholic Boy needed more ground, the horse was shipped to Saratoga.

In the With Anticipation, Catholic Boy, under Manny Franco, got off slow, was bumped and pinched back to seventh position. By the first turn, Catholic Boy advanced into fifth position, about five lengths off the pace, established by Earth and pursued by Trumpi.

Catholic Boy raced inside of Irish Territory until midway around the far turn when Jose Lezcano made a wide move on Irish Territory while Franco waited for room.

Turning for home, as Irish Territory advanced toward the front, Franco moved Catholic Boy from the rail to the three path. Irish Territory took the lead from Seabhac in midstretch, but Catholic Boy gradually wore him down inside the sixteenth pole and went on to win by a length.

“I was trying to find my way out, I had to wait a little bit longer than I wanted, the hole opened and I got a lot of horse underneath me,” said Franco, who won three races on Wednesday’s card.

Catholic Boy covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.94 and returned $26.40 to win.

“I’m actually a little more impressed with him knowing that he didn’t get the cleanest trip and he negotiated some pockets and holes and overcame it,” Thomas said. “That’s a good thing in our horse.”

Thomas said Catholic Boy would ship back to Bridlewood this week but that he hopes to return to New York for the Grade 3, $200,000 Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park on Sept. 30 with perhaps a trip to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar on Nov. 3 thereafter.

“You got to think it,” Thomas said of the Breeders’ Cup. “You’d love to think you could come up and run in the Pilgrim and go from there. New York is home for me and that’s where I’d like to be.”