by NYRA Press Office
Grade 3 Pennine Ridge winner Catholic Boy put the final touches on his Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational preparations with a four-furlong breeze Saturday morning over the Oklahoma turf course at Saratoga Race Course.
Trained by Jonathan Thomas, the 3-year-old More Than Ready ridgling went in company with Eagle Pass, an unraced 3-year-old gelding, covering the distance in 49.39 seconds with dogs up.
"It was kind of like a maintenance half, but I felt like he did everything well, finished up nicely and galloped out well. All in all, it went nicely," said Thomas. "More than anything, I wanted to see him moving well, happy, and comfortable in his work. Obviously, he's got a lot of foundation with numerous runs under his belt. We're only trying to keep him happy."
It was Catholic Boy's third work at Saratoga since capturing the Pennine Ridge in his return to turf on June 2, where he set the early pace and briefly lost the lead in the stretch before digging in to prevail by a neck under Hall of Famer Javier Castellano.
"I don't think you expect efforts like [the Pennine Ridge] from horses often and obviously, you can't predict scenarios to set up like they do, but he's a horse we've always had a lot of faith in," said Thomas. "He's been very reliable for us. As a fan of horse racing, it was a fun race for us to watch. Knowing him and knowing how honest he is in his efforts, in retrospect it wasn't necessarily a surprise to me that he bellied down and got the job done because that's just him."
Thomas said Castellano is set for the return call aboard Catholic Boy, owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm, and Twin Creeks Racing Stable.
Catholic Boy began his career on the grass, breaking his maiden at first asking and following up with a one-length score in the Grade 3 With Anticipation at Saratoga. His 2-year-old turf campaign culminated with a close fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf November 3 at Del Mar, crossing the wire 1 ½ lengths behind well-regarded European invader Mendelssohn.
The connections opted to make the switch to dirt, and in December Catholic Boy won the Grade 2 Remsen on the main track. He continued to pursue the Kentucky Derby trail in the spring, recording a tough runner-up effort in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Florida Derby on March 31 at Gulfstream Park before his return in the Pennine Ridge.
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Motion has contingent ready for busy Stars & Stripes slate
Wertheimer and Frere's Rugbyman came out of his Friday breeze in good order and is on target for the Grade 3, $300,000 Dwyer for 3-year-olds on Stars & Stripes Day July 7, trainer Graham Motion said by phone Saturday morning.
Rugbyman breezed five furlongs in 1:01.70 on Belmont's main track with regular jockey Jose Ortiz aboard for the work. Motion said he worked the Tapit colt with blinkers as he prepares for his graded stakes debut.
"Everything's gone pretty smoothly; we kept him up there and worked him with blinkers, which is what we plan to do on Saturday," Motion said.
Rugbyman did not race as a juvenile, finishing third in his debut on April 13 at Keeneland. He followed up by breaking his maiden with an eye-opening 14-length score at one mile on May 13 at Belmont. Motion said he kept Rugbyman at Belmont after the race to train for the Easy Goer, where he finished second to Prince Lucky by a neck on Belmont Stakes Day, June 9.
Rugbyman, cutting back in distance from 1 1/16 miles to one mile, has improved his Beyer Speed Figures in every single race, giving Motion confidence as he heads into the Dwyer.
"He's taken on a lot very quickly, but we always liked him a lot and liked him enough to take him to Keeneland, and he ran a good race in that first one," Motion said. "For the [Dwyer], it's not changing too much, and it makes sense to keep him there and run at a similar distance around one turn."
Stars & Stripes Day will feature a talented contingent from Motion, who will also saddle Thewayiam in the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational for 3-year-old fillies.
"She's very straightforward and she's done everything I've asked her to do," Motion said. "She's taken us there and has [earned the right] to be there."
The French-bred has four wins and two second-place finishes in seven starts since arriving in the United States, posting victories in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant on February 3 at Gulfstream Park at one mile and the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride on March 3 at Gulfstream at 1 1/16 miles. She will now stretch out to 1 ¼ miles for the first time.
"The mile and a quarter is a bit of a question mark, but she's been remarkable at shorter distances. She's handled everything I've asked her to do," said Motion.
Motion also said that West Point Thoroughbreds' Untamed Domain remains a possibility for the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational in the feature of a stacked card that includes five graded stakes on July 7.
Since running second to Mendelssohn in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf on November 3 at Del Mar, Untamed Domain has twice finished in the money in graded stakes, running third in his 3-year-old debut in the Grade 3 Dania Beach on February 3 at Gulfstream and second in the Grade 2 American Turf on May 5 at Churchill Downs.
In his last start, Untamed Domain ran fourth after a wide trip in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge at Belmont; an effort Motion blamed on himself and one he is looking to correct as he looks to run at 1 ¼ miles for the first time.
"We kept Untamed Domain eligible, so there is a chance he could run," Motion said. "He's been doing well. I'm upset with myself for the way he ran last time. We kind of changed tactics on him and took him out of his game and it blew up.
"He's a horse who wants to be left alone early in the race. We always thought a mile and a quarter was within his range. I think his last race, you can put a line through it."
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'Speedy' New York-bred Diversify fires bullet ahead of G2 Suburban
Ralph M. and Lauren Evans' Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Diversify breezed a bullet four furlongs over Belmont's main track Saturday morning in his final move ahead of next weekend's Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban at 1 ¼ miles.
The New York-bred gelding by Bellamy Road completed the half-mile work in 46.85 seconds, the fastest of 60 at the distance, and galloped out five furlongs in 58 4/5 seconds, according to NYRA clockers.
"It was maybe a shade faster than we wanted, but things aren't always perfect," said trainer Rick Violette, Jr. "He just showed he's ready, that's all. He likes to breeze fast, so he was showing off this morning."
Saturday's race will mark Diversify's return to graded stakes company following a rebounding victory against state-breds in the Commentator on May 28. Prior to that, he finished last of seven as the heavy favorite in his 5-year-old debut, beaten 26 lengths in the Grade 2 Charles Town Classic on April 21.
"The Charles Town race is a throw out," said Violette. "He just pulled up after two turns and there was another turn left. He came out of the Commentator great and it's a nice few weeks between that and the Suburban and there's not much I'd do differently with him if anything. He's doing terrific."
He added that Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Diversify, who boasts eight wins and two seconds from 13 starts for total earnings of $934,245.
"He'll charge his batteries this week and then we're taking on all comers," Violette said of Diversify. "He's shown he can do it and he's coming off a really good prep. He is speedy and he touted himself again today. We're really excited to run."
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Pletcher duo Channel Cat, Maraud wrap up Belmont Derby preparations
Trainer Todd Pletcher sent out Belmont Derby contenders Channel Cat and Maraud on Saturday morning for their final breezes ahead of next weekend's Grade 1 contest. Treadway Racing Stable's Maraud and Calumet Farm's homebred Channel Cat took to Belmont's main track and worked a half-mile in company in 48.45 seconds.
"Both I thought went very well," said Pletcher. "They had good, solid maintenance breezes and seem to be holding form."
Last time out, Maraud vied for the early lead in the Grade 2 Penn Mile on June 2 at Penn National Race Course before fading to fourth, 3 ½ lengths behind Hawkish. A $375,000 2-year-old in training purchase, the Blame colt posted a 1 ½-length victory in the Grade 2 American Turf over yielding ground on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs. He also owns a win in the Grade 3 Palm Beach at Gulfstream Park earlier this year and finished a close third in last fall's Grade 3 Pilgrim, his only previous start at Belmont Park.
Channel Cat, a chestnut son of English Channel, is exiting a third-place finish to Catholic Boy in the Grade 3 Pennine Ridge. Prior to that, he was a bothered sixth in the American Turf, running late to finish 4 ¾ lengths behind Maraud.
Pletcher also reported that 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit came out of his Tuesday breeze in good order and remains on target for the Grade 2 Suburban on Stars & Stripes Day.
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Clement looking to close out Belmont meet on a high note
Winning four of his last seven starts to give him 12 wins heading into Saturday's card, trainer Christophe Clement is looking to close out the spring/summer meet in strong fashion.
With regular rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, multiple graded stakes winner Disco Partner posted his first workout since successfully defending his title in the Grade 2 Jaipur Invitational on June 9. Owned and bred by Patricia A. Generazio, the 6-year-old son of Disco Rico breezed four furlongs in 48.68 seconds on the inner turf. Clement said the world record holder will be pointed to the $150,000 Forbidden Apple on Saturday, July 14.
"Today was an easy work," said Clement. "He looked well and finished very willingly. Irad was very happy. The plan is to run him in the Forbidden Apple. He'll work again next week just to make sure everything is okay."
Stablemate Pure Sensation, also owned and bred by Generazio and who ran third in the Jaipur, will enter the Grade 3 Parx Dash. Heading into Stars & Stripes weekend, Clement will saddle a pair of French-breds, Chipolata and Silver Step, for the Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks and Silver Step for Sunday's $100,000 River Memories, respectively.
Chipolata, expected to arrive to Belmont tomorrow, was previously under the care of Clement's brother Nicolas, a multiple Group 1 trainer in France.
"My brother has been training her for the past month, and he's told me good things," he said. "I'll see for myself once she clears quarantine, but I certainly think she'll get the distance."
Silver Step has made two starts since arriving from France, finishing fifth in the Powder Break on April 28 at Gulfstream Park and fifth in the Miss Livery on June 9 at Monmouth Park. Clement said she will work tomorrow and may be joined in the race by stablemate Flower Fashion, who was scratched from the Grade 2 Dance Smartly on Woodbine Saturday morning, and is under consideration for either the River Memories or the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial at Delaware Park.
"If Silver Step works well tomorrow she will run in the River Memories," said Clement. "Flower Fashion will either run in the Robert G. Dick Memorial or the River Memories. It's nice to run where you are stabled and I don't mind having two runners in the race, we'll see how things shape out and make a decision soon."
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Fields coming together for Stars & Stripes Day
Fields are coming together for Saturday's Stars & Stripes Day at Belmont Park, featuring five graded stakes worth more than $3.5 million in purses and capped by the Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational and Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational, both for 3-year-olds at 1 ¼ miles on the turf.
Probable contenders for Stars & Stripes Day:
Grade 1, $1.2 million Belmont Derby Invitational - 3-year-olds at 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf
Probable: Analyze It (Chad Brown); Catholic Boy (Jonathan Thomas); Channel Cat (Todd Pletcher); Encumbered (Simon Callaghan); Hawkish (Jimmy Toner); Hunting Horn (Aidan O'Brien); Kingstar (Pia Brandt); Maraud (Pletcher); My Boy Jack (Keith Desormeaux); Threeandfourpence (O'Brien); Untamed Domain (Graham Motion); Way Early (George Weaver)
Grade 1, $1 million Belmont Oaks Invitational - 3-year-old fillies at 1 ¼ miles on the inner turf
Probable: Athena (O'Brien); Brattata (C. Brown); Capla Temptress (Marco Botti); Chipolata (Christophe Clement); Fatale Bere (Leonard Powell); Happily (O'Brien); La Signare (Brian Lynch); Mighty Scarlett (C. Brown); Paved (Michael McCarthy); Significant Form (C. Brown); Thewayiam (Motion); Toinette (Neil Drysdale)
Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban - 4-year-olds and up at 1 ¼ miles
Probable: Carlino (Mark Hennig); Discreet Lover (Uriah St. Lewis); Diversify (Rick Violette, Jr.); Sorry Erik (Desormeaux); Tapwrit (Pletcher); Zanotti (Juan Carlos Guerrero)
Possible: Hard Study (Pletcher); Name Changer (Alan Goldberg); The Lieutenant (McCarthy); War Story (Jorge Navarro)
Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship - 3-year-olds and up at seven furlongs
Probable: Limousine Liberal (Ben Colebrook); True Timber (Kiaran McLaughlin); Whitmore (Ron Moquett)
Possible: Favorable Outcome (C. Brown); Lewisfield (Jeff Runco); Shaft of Light (Navarro)
Grade 3, $300,000 Dwyer - 3-year-olds at one mile
Probable: Firenze Fire (Jason Servis); Noble Indy (Pletcher); Rugbyman (Motion); Seven Trumpets (Dale Romans)
Possible: Mendelssohn (O'Brien); Navy Commander (Robert Reid, Jr.); Seahenge (O'Brien)
Stars & Stripes Day, Saturday, July 7, will also feature an array of family fun activities. The backyard and picnic areas will come alive with a variety of games and activities that the entire family can enjoy, including a petting zoo, rock wall climbing, and much more.
On the first floor of the grandstand, there will be a special craft vendors market, featuring Taste NY vendors selling food, goods and other local fares from the New York region to fans in attendance.
Belmont will also host the Stars & Stripes Challenge, giving horseplayers the chance to test their handicapping skills and compete the chance to win live cash win one seat to the 2019 Belmont Stakes Challenge and two seats to the 2019 National Horseplayers Championship. The entry fee is $500, with $250 going to the prize pool and the remaining $250 comprising each player's bankroll. There is a guaranteed minimum first-place prize of $5,000.