Weekend Takeaways: The grass looks greener for Catholic Boy

July 09, 2018 10:28pm
Weekend Takeaways: The grass looks greener for Catholic Boy
Photo: Courtesy of the NYRA

Oftentimes in racing, connections are found hoping that a promising turf talent can transfer its form to the dirt. For example, see the top European-based horses who often visit to compete in the Breeders' Cup Classic.

We've witnessed the reverse in action the last month, however. Catholic Boy, after starting his season on dirt, switched to the lawn in the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3) in June. He won by a neck that day, defeating heavily favored Analyze It, though many attributed the favorite’s loss to him moving too soon rather than the talent of Catholic Boy.

This past Saturday, Catholic Boy lined up against Analyze it again in the Belmont Derby (G1), and in a performance that was a near replica of the Pennine Ridge, stymied his rival once again. This time, the win was all about Catholic Boy's heart and grit, not an excuse for Analyze It.

Connections have mentioned that the Travers Stakes at Saratoga would be an option for their newly minted Grade 1 winner, but I hope they stay on turf with this one. First of all, I would love to see the Catholic Boy-Analyze It rivalry keep on going. Secondly, it is obvious that this horse is worlds better on the lawn. He's already proven formidable on the main track, too, as a winner of the Remsen (G2). But Catholic Boy's true calling is as a front running turf horse.

Diversify loves him some Belmont

If it wasn’t already apparent, Diversify absolutely loves Belmont Park. I mean he really, really, loves it.

We first saw that last year when he wired the field in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), then again -- albeit to a lesser extent -- in the Commentator Stakes for New York-breds. His affinity for Belmont’s main track was on full display again Saturday as he routed a very solid group in the Suburban Handicap (G2).

The Sunday exiting the Suburban, trainer Rick Violette named the Woodward Stakes (GI) at Saratoga as the next target for Diversify. While some may worry that he may not show up with his best race over a “new” track, they should note that he has competed at Saratoga once before, and it was a winning performance.

With his past history, the concern that Diversify is only a one-track animal is understandable, however he’s experienced quite a bit of success at the other two NYRA tracks, so, while a case could made that he cannot ship well outside of New York, there is no reason to believe he can’t bring his A-game to Saratoga.

Firenze on fire

Much like Catholic Boy has found his true home on turf, Firenze Fire reaffirmed his calling going around one turn, and he did so in fantastic style when winning Saturday's Dwyer Stakes (G3).

The Jason Servis-trained colt decimated the likes of Noble Indy, Mendelssohn and Seven Trumpets by nine commanding lengths. The final time was a snappy 1:33.74, which was only 3/5th of a second off the final time in last month's Met Mile (G1).

The son of Poseidon’s Warrior may have been in over his head going two turns on the Kentucky Derby trail, but around one turn, Firenze Fire is beast of an opponent.

Mendelssohn exposed?

This is not to say that Mendelssohn should be considered a bad horse coming out of the Dwyer, but he was exposed as a mediocre dirt horse at best.

Like I mentioned above, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and that certainly seems to be the case with Mendelssohn, who has finished last in the Kentucky Derby and a toiling third in Saturday’s Dwyer -- that after looking near unbeatable in the UAE Derby.

The connections are pointing to a possible start in the Pennsylvania Derby, where they are no doubt hoping for a better performance than on Saturday. But Mendelssohn offered no fight down the home straight after taking command rather easily through the turn.

He has the will to run. Getting the son of Scat Daddy back on grass, where he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, seems the right choice.


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Meet Laura Pugh

Laura Pugh got her first taste of Thoroughbred racing when she watched War Emblem take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2002. At that point, she fell in love with the sport, reading every piece of news and information she could get her fingertips on.

Laura has a long history with horses in general, taking her first ride on her fifth birthday, with her first official riding lesson when she was eight years old. Both years she attended college, she joined her school’s equestrian team, first at Virginia Intermont College and then again at Delaware State University. Unfortunately, after back and shoulder injuries, she had to hang up her saddle. 

In 2010, Laura began writing for Horse Racing Nation and has also contributed to Lady and the Track, TwinSpires and USRacing. She currently works at a local newspaper as a community reporter.

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