12/04/2017 11:56AM

Sparkman: Catholic Boy shows More Than Ready's versatility

Michael Amoruso
Catholic Boy, by More Than Ready, wins the Remsen in his first start on dirt.

Although it is easy to demonstrate statistically that the schism between dirt and turf horses is somewhat overrated, it has seldom been more readily illustrated than by the results of Aqueduct’s two Grade 2 dirt features for juveniles last Saturday.

The Demoiselle Stakes went to Wonder Gadot, who had won her maiden on turf and run third in the Grade 1 Natalma on the grass before winning the Grade 3 Mazarine on Woodbine’s synthetic surface and finishing sixth in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies on dirt.

The colts’ equivalent, the Remsen, fell to Catholic Boy, who had won his maiden on turf at Saratoga and won the Grade 3 With Anticipation on the same course before finishing well in fourth behind Mendelssohn in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Catholic Boy is both particularly well named and particularly well bred for such an eclectic record, since the original meaning of “catholic” was universal and inclusive, and his sire, More Than Ready, is one of the world’s best sires, regardless of surface.

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More Than Ready raced only on dirt and was a brilliantly fast and precocious horse who trained on into a top-class sprinter-miler with the class and courage to hang on for fourth in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby. By Southern Halo, who led the Argentine sire list seven times but sired little else of import in America, More Than Ready was bred in Kentucky by Walter Hillenmeyer’s Woodlynn Farm, out of the Woodman mare Woodman’s Girl, and sold at the 1998 Keeneland September yearling sale for $187,000 to James T. Scatourcho, with Eddie Rosen as agent.

More Than Ready won his first five starts at 2 in brilliant style, including the Grade 2 Saratoga Special, but did not handle stretching out to longer distances in the Grade 1 Futurity and Champagne Stakes. More Than Ready gave it an honest try on the Kentucky Derby trail at 3, winning the Grade 3 Hutcheson and running second in the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes. A perfect, ground-saving ride by John Velazquez and visible courage were enough for More Than Ready to make the lead briefly in the stretch of the Kentucky Derby, but he faded in the final eighth, beaten six lengths by Fusaichi Pegasus.

More Than Ready got his Grade 1 win that August in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop and ran second in the Grade 1 Vosburgh, but the pure sprinters were too fast for him in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he finished a closing fifth behind the record-setting Kona Gold.

Retired to Vinery Stud in 2001, More Than Ready was an immediate success, siring Grade 2-winning turf star Ready’s Gal (Exquisite Mistress, by Nasty and Bold) and nine other stakes winners in his first Northern Hemisphere crop. More than Ready shuttled to Australia annually, however, and his first Australian crop included three winners, headed by Victoria Derby winner Benicio (Mannington, by Danehill). More Than Ready followed up with Australian champion 2-year-olds Sebring (Purespeed, by Flying Spur) and Phelan Ready (Nancy Eleanor, by Blevic), and the great mare More Joyous (Sunday Joy, by Sunday Silence), but it was not until his sixth American crop that he produced his first American-bred Grade 1 winner, Regally Ready (Kivi, by King of Kings).

That picture has changed dramatically in the last few years, however, and More Than Ready has now sired 182 stakes winners from 2,568 foals worldwide age 3 and up, a 7.1 percent strike rate. Those numbers include 20 Group 1/Grade 1 winners, six of those in North America, including two 2017 Breeders’ Cup winners Roy H (Elusive Diva, by Elusive Quality) and Rushing Fall (Autumnal, by Forestry).

Catholic Boy, who was bred in Kentucky by Fred Hertrich and John Fielding, is the second foal out of Song of Bernadette, by Bernardini, a half-sister to stakes winners Return to Paradise, by El Prado, and Coya, by Deputy Minister. His second dam, stakes-placed Winner’s Edge, by Seeking the Gold, is half-sister to European highweight Lucky Song, by Seattle Song, Grade 3 winner Pollock’s Luck, by Polish Navy, and stakes winner Bid Us, by Bold Bidder, from the successful family founded in America by his fourth dam, Argentine champion La Sevillana. Song of Bernadette has since produced a yearling colt by Super Saver and a weanling filly by Carpe Diem. She was bred back to Exaggerator this year.

Catholic Boy was purchased privately by Robert LaPenta after failing to reach his reserve at a $170,000 hammer price at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is trained by Jonathan Thomas.