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Daily Racing Form: Catholic Boy Likely Back To Turf For Final Breeders’ Cup Classic Prep

Now a Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt, Catholic Boy may run in the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince on turf at Belmont.

The top three finishers from Saturday’s Grade 1, $1.25 million Travers Stakes are expected to go their separate ways for the immediate future, but if things go according to plan, all three could meet again in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3, their connections indicated Sunday.

Catholic Boy, who won the Travers by four lengths and earned a 104 Beyer Speed Figure, “came back really well,” according to trainer Jonathan Thomas.

Catholic Boy added the Travers to a résumé that includes the Grade 2 Remsen on dirt and wins on turf in the Grade 1 Belmont Derby and Grade 3 Pennine Ridge, both at Belmont Park, and the Grade 3 With Anticipation here as a 2-year-old. Overall, he is 6 for 9.

“Visually, I thought yesterday was his most impressive performance,” Thomas said.

Catholic Boy earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure for the performance.

As Catholic Boy is now a Grade 1 winner on both turf and dirt, Thomas said he could look to run Catholic Boy in the Grade 2, $500,000 Hill Prince for 3-year-olds going 1 1/8 miles on turf at Belmont as a prep for the Classic. The Hill Prince is Oct. 6, whereas the Grade 1, $750,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles on dirt is a week earlier on Sept. 29. In the Jockey Club Gold Cup, he likely would have to face Whitney and defending Gold Cup winner Diversify.

“If you employ the Hill Prince against your own age group, cutting back an eighth of a mile and getting back on what I would call just a little bit of a kinder surface, it seems to make sense right now,” Thomas said Sunday morning. “Running against Diversify at Belmont, as quick as he is and chasing him, I don’t know if that’s really something I feel great about right now.”

If Diversify for some reason did not run in the Gold Cup, “that would open it up a little bit,” Thomas said.

Thomas said Catholic Boy would remain in Saratoga for the immediate future before shipping to Belmont a week or so before his next race.

Mendelssohn, who settled for second after setting the pace in the Travers, was scheduled to leave Sunday night for Ireland, where he is based with trainer Aidan O’Brien. According to The Irish Field, a weekly equine publication based in Ireland, O’Brien said Mendelssohn would not run again until the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

T.J. Comerford, O’Brien’s assistant who traveled to Saratoga with the horse, said Mendelssohn came out of the Travers in good order.

“The race couldn’t have taken that whole amount out of him because he ate his dinner last night, he’s straight into his breakfast, he’s showing the signs that he’s in a good place,” Comerford said. “I think you’d have to be happy with him. Aidan thinks he can improve again, which he can.”

In the Travers, Mendelssohn showed the speed he displayed in winning the United Arab Emirates Derby by 18 1/2 lengths in March. Since then, he finished last in the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track and was third in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont on July 7 at a one-turn-mile trip that may have been too sharp for him.

“He ran so well, he could be coming back to his best,” Comerford said of the Travers. “You could see there was definitely a change in him from Belmont to here.”

Bravazo was a length behind Mendelssohn while finishing third in the Travers, the third time in his last four starts that he finished in the top three in a Grade 1 stakes for 3-year-olds. The runner-up to Justify in the Preakness and Good Magic in the Haskell, Bravazo will be pointed to the Grade 1, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby at Parx on Sept. 22, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Sunday morning.

“He’s sharp this morning, pulled up great,” Lukas said.

Lukas lauded Bravazo’s performance in the Travers, noting, “Nobody was closing yesterday. He was the only one. It’s hard to beat them when they get the dream trip those two got.”

Trainer Chad Brown was licking his wounds from a disappointing Travers in which his top two betting choices, Good Magic, the 7-5 favorite, and Gronkowski, the 3-1 second choice, finished ninth and eighth.

Neither horse broke particularly well, meaning they were unable to obtain a decent early position on a track that was kind to forwardly placed runners.

“The track wasn’t conducive to horses that didn’t have good early position,” Brown said. “With that said, from the half-mile pole to the wire, these horses weren’t doing any running really, so I can’t blame it all on the track.”

Brown said he would need more time to evaluate the horses before deciding what might be next for them. He did mention Gronkowski as a possible for the Jockey Club Gold Cup given his solid second in the Belmont Stakes and his penchant for longer distances.

Trainer Mark Casse said the filly Wonder Gadot, who finished last, came out of the race without any issues and that he had no immediate plans for her next start.

“Yesterday was a rough day,” Casse said Sunday morning. “But we gave it a try.”

This story originally appeared on DRF.com


Visit DRF.com for additional news, notes, wagering information, and more.

David Grening, Daily Racing Form
David Grening, Daily Racing Form

David Grening covers the New York Racing Association circuit of Aqueduct, Belmont, and Saratoga plus such national events as the Triple Crown and Breeders' Cup. He is a contributing author to "Champions" and joined Daily Racing Form in 1998.

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