What a Catch wires Rockville Centre

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

NYRA/Viola Jasko

By Sarah Mace

Gary Barber’s What a Catch was first-crop sire Justin Philip’s first winner when he aced his debut by 5 1/2 lengths at Belmont on June 2 as the 7-5 favorite. The chestnut colt has now also become the stallion’s first stakes winner after scoring a wire-to-wire victory in the $125,000 Rockville Centre Stakes for New York-bred juveniles at Belmont Park on Saturday.

Second choice in the Rockville Centre at odds of 9-5 behind odds-on favorite Morning Breez, What a Catch went straight to the front under jockey John Velazquez, shadowed by Morning Breez, who raced a half-length back in second right at his flank. Analyze the Odds (9-2) set up a length back in third, Morrison (4-1) raced another length back in fourth, while longshot Over Salty was outrun from the bell and brought up the caboose of the five-horse field.

As What a Catch raced along the backstretch through an opening quarter in 23.12, Morning Breez pressed the issue, turning the affair into a full-fledged duel. The pair opened up more than 2 lengths on Analyze the Odds and Morrison and passed the quarter pole on even terms as the half clicked off in 46.48. The stage was set for a battle to the wire.

By midstretch What a Catch began to win that battle. Morning Breez never threw in the towel, and even came back gamely to tighten the finish in the final strides, but What a Catch secured a clear victory by one length. Six lengths back Analyze the Odds got third, while Morrison and Over Salty completed the order of finish. The final time for six furlongs over the fast main track was 1:11.21. [VIDEO REPLAY]

NYRA/Joe Labozzetta

“We came out running,” said victorious Hall of Famer John Velazquez. “I thought the horse to the outside of me [Morning Breez] might make the lead so I came out running to see what he is going to do. And then he sat off of me and that was perfect and I stayed in front of him.”

Added Velazquez, “My horse seemed a little bit green, so it kind of helped him to have company. After that, I tried to get away from the horse at the quarter pole, tried to discourage the horse a little bit and I think it worked out.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher’s assistant Byron Hughes added his appraisal. “I thought [What a Catch] was very professional. He acted good in the paddock, post parade, broke sharp and fought off the second-place horse, who’s a nice horse himself. I thought it was a good race overall.”

Both jockey and assistant trainer also offered broader observations on the youngster’s prospects. Velazquez said, “The farther he goes the better he gets, so he seems pretty nice.” Hughes, for his part, commented, “He’s always been pretty classy, a bit precocious 2-year-old. He’s been benefiting from that and stepping up every time we’ve asked him.”

Bred by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy and foaled at Berkshire Stud, What a Catch, now a $97,000 earner from two victories, is one of five winners and the first stakes winner out of Catch My Fancy, a Florida-bred multiple stakes winner by Yes It’s True.

A graduate of the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale in Saratoga where he was purchased by Steve Venosa’s SGV Thoroughbreds for $90,000, his value skyrocketed the following year when Justin Casse had to go to $265,000 to get him after a well-timed headline-worthy catalogue update.

Catch My Fancy’s first foal Catch the Moon (Malibu Moon) is the dam of Girvin, who the weekend prior to the sale leapfrogged to the top of the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard when he won the Grade 2 Risen Star. Catch the Moon, who foaled a full sister to What a Catch on February 13, 2017, is also the dam of graded winner Cocked and Loaded.

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