Catholic Boy; winner of the Remsen
by Alastair Bull
It’s not that easy for horses to switch between turf and dirt at the highest level. The switch from turf to dirt is particularly difficult in North America, as the best horses are usually aimed first at dirt, where the largest chunk of prize money is available.
But if the horse is by More Than Ready, as Remsen Stakes (G2) winner Catholic Boy is, there’s a much greater chance.
More Than Ready was the best racehorse conceived in the United States by Southern Halo (Halo), the breed shaper who sired 58 Group 1 winners in South America. Winner of the 2000 King’s Bishop Stakes (G1) and fourth in that year’s Kentucky Derby, More Than Ready has been a great success shuttling between Kentucky and Australia, siring 177 stakes winners to date, including 21 at Group/Grade 1 level.
His record is arguably better from his Australian base, where 14 of the top-level winners were conceived – all turf horses. They include two winners of the six-furlong Golden Slipper (Aus-G1) for two-year-olds – including his best sire son, Sebring – and five that won 1 1/2-mile classics for three-year-olds.
From North America, he’s had stars on both turf and dirt. This year his progeny won two Breeders’ Cup races, one on turf (Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Rushing Fall), and one on dirt (Sprint winner Roy H.).
Some even handled both surfaces, such as Verrazano, who won the 1 1/8-mile Haskell Invitational (G1) and the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial (G1) on dirt at three before heading to England as a four-year-old, where he finished third in the one-mile Lockinge Stakes (Eng-G1) at Newbury and second in the one-mile Queen Anne Stakes (Eng-G1) at Royal Ascot.
Catholic Boy looks set to join him. Winner of his first two starts on turf, including the With Anticipation Stakes (G3), he ran a very good race for a fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) behind Mendelssohn, finishing strongly from well back.
He couldn’t have been more impressive when switching to dirt at Aqueduct on December 2, strolling away as he liked at the finish of the 1 1/8-mile Remsen to defeat Nashua Stakes (G2) winner Avery Island. The strength of the field was hard to assess, but Catholic Boy couldn’t do much more than was asked and clearly put himself among the potential Kentucky Derby contenders.
As More Than Ready’s record shows, he can get horses with ability at a large variety of distances. It’s best to assess the pedigree of Catholic Boy’s dam, Song of Bernadette (Bernardini), when trying to predict his chances of staying 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs. This does give some good news to Catholic Boy – though most of his high-quality relatives that raced in the U.S. have form up to 1 1/16 miles, his third dam Lucky Us (by top stamina influence Nijinsky II) is the dam of Lucky Song, winner of the 1 13/16-mile Park Hill Stakes (Eng-G2) in England.
Catholic Boy looked full of run at the end of 1 1/8 miles in the Remsen, and he should stay 1 1/4 miles if he makes it to the Kentucky Derby. The big question will be one of class, and his performances in early 2018 should be watched carefully.
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