The following appeared in The Paulick Report and was written by Ryan Martin. Did you know there are now 7 different Off Track Betting sites in Virginia where you can wager the Belmont Derby, Suburban Handicap and other big stakes this weekend? Try any of the four VA-Horseplay locations at Breakers Sports Grille, Ponies & Pints, Buckets Bar & Grill and the Windmill OTB Sports Grill, and the three new Rosie’s Gaming Emporiums in New Kent, Vinton and Richmond. And you can wager on line as well via four industry partners like TVG.com, Xpressbet.com, Twinspires.com and NYRABets.com.
Ultra consistent Catholic Boy has won at the highest level on both dirt and turf and will now go for back-to-back graded stakes triumphs on both surfaces when breaking from the rail against ten others in Saturday’s 133rd running of the Grade 2, $700,000 Suburban for older horses going a mile and a quarter over the Belmont Park main track.
In the past, the Suburban has been used to build on eventual Eclipse Award-winning campaigns by the likes of Lemon Drop Kid (2000), Mineshaft (2003) and Invasor (2006).
Catholic Boy will look to add his name to that list.
The 4-year-old bay More Than Ready colt won the Grade 2 Dixie over the turf at Pimlico in his seasonal debut for owners Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stables, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stables. The Jonathan Thomas trainee was a dual Grade 1 winner last year, taking the Belmont Derby Invitational and subsequently the Travers at Saratoga, where he recorded a career best 104 Beyer Speed Figure.
At 2, Catholic Boy won the Grade 3 With Anticipation and rounded out 2017 with a win over the Aqueduct main track in the Grade 2 Remsen.
“It would be a pretty remarkable addition to his resume,” Thomas said of winning graded stakes on both surfaces for three years in a row. “The main reason he started on grass is because during the early part of the summer there’s more route opportunities in the grass and that’s why we went that direction. He never struck us as a sprinter and because he happened to win on the grass it just made sense for us to keep him on it until other opportunities came up.”
Thomas said Catholic Boy has trained well since his half-length triumph in the Dixie on May 18 at Pimlico over dual graded stakes placed Admission Office.
“He came back very well. We were fortunate that he had time off because we wanted to give him time off, not because of any injuries,” Thomas said. “He came back great we were really happy with his effort in the Dixie and subsequently he’s trained well. Everything’s going really well. He’s always been a clockwork horse in the sense that he’s very reliable and consistent so we’ve been seeing more of the same from him. Hopefully, that translates to a good effort on Saturday.”
A victory in the Suburban would give Thomas plenty of options for Catholic Boy on both surfaces.
“It will have a big say in where we head next or which direction we stay on,” Thomas said. “Hopefully he runs well because we would love to come back and think about a race like the [Grade 1, $750,000] Woodward [on August 31 at Saratoga].”
Bred in Kentucky by Fred W. Hertrich III & John D. Fielding, Catholic Boy is out of the Bernardini broodmare Song of Bernadette. He is a winner of 7-of-11 career starts, six of which were against graded stakes company, and is scheduled to stand at Claiborne Farm upon retirement.
Hall of Famer Javier Castellano, who has been aboard for the past five journeys, has the call for Saturday’s race from the inside post.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who won the Suburban two years ago with Keen Ice, will saddle a pair of regally bred runners with graded stakes winner Marconi and dual allowance winner Wooderson.
Breaking from post 4 under Jose Lezcano, Marconi enters the Suburban off three stakes victories this year, the most recent was a wire-to-wire effort in the Grade 2 Brooklyn Invitational. The gray or roan son of Tapit is a half-brother to 2013 Grade 1 Breeders Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man, who won the 2012 Suburban.
Marconi set the pace for the first time in his nine-race career last out in the Brooklyn, which was his subsequent start off of victories in the Skip Away on March 29 at Gulfstream Park and the Flat Out Invitational on May 9 over the Belmont main track.
Bred in Kentucky by Brushwood Stable, Marconi was the second most expensive purchase from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016 and was bought for $2 million from the consignment operation of Eaton Sales. He is owned by Bridlewood Farm, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor.
Also from the Pletcher barn in Let’s Go Stable’s Wooderson, who is a recent allowance winner over the Monmouth Park main track. The son of Awesome Again and half-brother to 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra was a 5 ½ length winner of his last start where he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles after a win over a muddy dirt surface at Keeneland on April 26.
Wooderson’s only graded stakes effort was in last year’s Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park, where he was seventh as the lukewarm favorite. Wooderson was bred in Kentucky by Heaven Trees Farm and was purchased for $400,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016.
Hall of Famer John Velazquez will pilot Wooderson who will leave from post 7.
Also set to saddle of pair of runners is trainer Jimmy Jerkens, both of which will bear the red and tan colors of Don Little, Jr.’s Centennial Farms.
Graded stakes-winner Rocketry, who enters the 10-furlong test off of a pair of runner-up efforts at Belmont Park to fellow Suburban aspirant Marconi, will break from post 3 under Joel Rosario.
Last out, the 5-year-old son of Hard Spun was beaten a half-length to Marconi in the Brooklyn after sitting well off the pace in the Flat Out, where he was beaten 2 ¾ lengths.
Perhaps his biggest claim to fame is breaking a long-time track record set by the great Man o’ War when taking the 13-furlong Temperance Hill Invitational last September over the Belmont main track where he stopped the clock in 2:40.00. He recorded a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in the Temperance Hill and replicated that number in his subsequent start where he won the Grade 2 Marathon at Churchill Downs.
Making his stakes debut for Jerkens and Centennial Farms is Preservationist who won a third level allowance race over a sloppy main track on May 23 at Belmont Park, where he recorded a 101 Beyer. The lightly-raced 6-year-old son of Arch has never finished off the board in seven career starts, four of which were wins. Preservationist was a narrow winner was a one-mile Aqueduct allowance race two starts back, which was his second start off an 11-month layoff.
Preservationist will be ridden by jockey Junior Alvarado from post 2.
Both runners will look to give Jerkens his third victory in the Suburban after taking back-to-back editions with Effinex in 2015-16.
Seeking a second graded stakes victory in his career is G M B Racing’s well-travelled Lone Sailor, who will also look to give jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. a seventh graded stakes win this meet.
Trained by Tom Amoss, Lone Sailor won the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby last September at Remington Park and has since placed three times against graded stakes company. After a third-place effort in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds, he was a late-closing second beaten a neck to Quip in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, where he ran his best Beyer Speed Figure with a 98. Most recently, he was third, beaten six lengths in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on May 27.
Lone Sailor will break from post 5.
Completing the field for the Suburban are Mead Hall [post 6, Tomas Meija],Carlino [post 8, Manny Franco] Realm [post 9, Luis Saez], Cordmaker [post 10, Victor Carrasco] and Pavel [post 11, Mario Gutierrez].
The Suburban will go off as Race 10 on the 11-race Stars & Stripes Racing Festival card. First post is 1 p.m. Eastern.