Analysis: Catholic Boy in line to lead older horse division

May 20, 2019 12:42pm
America's older horses are in need of a new leader with the division decimated by another spree of retirements, along with the unfortunate passing of Battle of Midway.

Cue the 4-year-old Catholic Boy, who made a successful return on Saturday's Preakness Stakes undercard by winning the Dixie Stakes (G2) over the Pimlico Race Cours turf.

Admittedly, Catholic Boy enjoyed a great trip. He sat off the pacesetter Real Story and then inched clear in the stretch run. The top five horses finished clumped together, which is usually not a sign they ran fast, but in turf racing that is forgivable. Spaced-out finishes happen more often in dirt racing.

For his Dixie win, TimeformUS gave Catholic Boy a 120, and Beyer awarded a 96. 

Considering the state of the division and Catholic Boy’s proven talent going long on the dirt in the Travers Stakes (G1), he could become the division leader. Few other horses are capable of running at his level at 10 furlongs. 

Out of the current older horses, who does Catholic Boy need to worry about?

On the west coast, Gift Box is OK. He won the San Antonio Stakes (G2) by a half-length back in December over Battle of Midway and then beat McKinzie by a nose in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) months later. The Beyer team awarded Gift Box a 101 and 102 for those wins.

But in the latter effort, others pointed out that McKinzie does not run his best race at 1 1/4 miles. Plus, the rest of the field was filled with relatively unknown horses. Gift Box improved over his allowance-level east coast form, but he is also taking advantage of an empty division out west.

City of Light and Accelerate left a void with their retirements after their 1-2 finish in the Pegasus World Cup. Not too long afterward, Battle of Midway suffered a catastrophic injury at Santa Anita Park amid its run of equine fatalities. After a failed stint at stud, Battle of Midway was only beginning to round into his best form, which makes his death that much more heartbreaking.

As for McKinzie, he shipped to Churchill Downs and won the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba Stakes (G2) by 4 3/4 lengths on the Kentucky Derby undercard. He also won the seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (G1) last December at Santa Anita with a sharp-looking performance.

But as mentioned, he failed to close the deal against Gift Box in the Big 'Cap and Battle of Midway in the San Pasqual (G2).

With the Breeders’ Cup Classic and other important dirt races contested at 1 1/4 miles, it is fair to question whether McKinzie can break out as a leader if he cannot outfinish Gift Box at 10 furlongs. Remember, he faded all the way to 12th by 31 lengths in last year’s Classic.

Down the list, there are older horses such as Seeking the Soul and Gunnevera, who are not major threats to become the division leader. Once in a while, either of them could run a big race, but more often than not they are only underneath factors to use in the superfecta, especially with Gunnevera. At 6, the speedy Diversify is getting up there in age.

As for competition from Catholic Boy's own crop, Tenfold took the Pimlico Special (G3) with a 96 Beyer and 114 TimeformUS Speed Figure, neither of which are impressive. He only won by a neck over the relatively unknown You're to Blame.

Quip and Lone Sailor finished 1-2 in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) a month ago, but Quip only earned a 98 Beyer and 120 TimeformUS Speed Figure, the same number Catholic Boy picked up taking the Dixie off a long layoff.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Catholic Boy is Thunder Snow, who won his second straight Dubai World Cup (G1) in March, bringing his overall earnings to more than $16 million. He still lacks a win in three North American starts but turned in great efforts in both the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) to finish second and the Breeders' Cup Classic to finish third. He is top class.

It is unclear though when Thunder Snow will pop up on this continent again -- perhaps too late in the year to contend for an Eclipse Award.

Subsequently, Catholic Boy looks poised to take over the top spot.

Was the Dixie win particularly exciting? No. But this turf win provided a solid start to his 2019 campaign, and win or lose, connections said that's all they were seeking. There's much more to prove next time in Belmont Park's Suburban (G1), both over the dirt and at 1 1/4 miles.


comments powered by Disqus

Related Pages

Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

Best of the Blogs

Top 10 Lists

Top Stories