Jonathan Thomas shook hands with Javier Castellano in the paddock before the Travers Stakes.
“Like we discussed,” Thomas said. “No instructions.”
Castellano nodded and smiled. That was it.
Minutes later, Castellano placed the “push-button” Catholic Boy in a stalking spot in second behind Mendelssohn in the $1.25 million stakes. There were no instructions needed. Catholic Boy used his speed to angle from the outside stall and used his stamina to gallop nine rivals into submission over the 10 furlongs. Owned by Robert LaPenta, Madaket Stable, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stable, Catholic Boy strolled to an easy win over Mendelssohn and Bravazo, finishing in 2:01.94.
“That was a Hall of Fame ride,” Thomas said. “That was an authoritative, confident, I’ve-got-the-horse ride.”
Castellano knew he had the horse after winning two graded turf stakes aboard Catholic Boy this summer and breezing the son of More Than Ready three times on the dirt at Saratoga this month. After the first one, a bullet 5-furlong drill, Castellano had seen what he needed to see.
“You think I can win my sixth Travers?” Castellano said, it was more statement than question.
“Yeah, win it with me,” Thomas said.
“I like this horse,” Castellano said. “Nobody is going to beat this horse.”
And 19 days later, nobody did.
Catholic Boy broke quickly from the outside post and Castellano had one thing in mind, get there and get over. Castellano dangled his whip in his right hand for three strides, looked twice to his left while angling Catholic Boy toward the rail. In a matter of strides, Catholic Boy established the stalking spot just off Mendelssohn, who had been hustled to the lead by Ryan Moore.
Those two won the race to the first turn and both jockeys knew it, raising their shoulders and slowing the tempo they had asked for just strides earlier. Behind them, the filly Wonder Gadot found a sweet spot on the rail in third while Preakness runner-up Bravazo, Jim Dandy winner Tenfold and favorite Good Magic tried to funnel into the next tier, Good Magic taking the worst of it on the outside. Thistledown shipper Trigger Warning stayed on the rail in sixth with Jim Dandy-third Vino Rosso outside him. Belmont runner-up Gronkowski had one horse behind him and that was 28-1 King Zachary.
To read the rest of the Travers recap, download Sunday’s digital edition of The Saratoga Special presented by EasyFix Stable Solutions.