It was a truly emotional and eventful week for trainer Jonathan Thomas that thankfully ended on an optimistic note.
Last week, Jonathan Thomas had to bid farewell to Catholic Boy, the two-time grade 1 winner, who was retiring prior to starting a stud career in 2020 at Claiborne Farm.
Catholic Boy managed to earn a total of $2.1 million for Thomas along with his owners Twin Creeks Racing Stables, Siena Farm, Madaket Stables, and Robert LaPenta.
Even though Jonathan Thomas was under pressure to find another horse like Catholic Boy, it was all done and dusted on 20 October when a new horse was introduced into his life as Xenobia from Augustin Stable achieved a 1 ½ length win in the fillies and mares $200,000 Athenia Stakes at Belmont Park.
The Athenia Stakes was contested on the inner turf course at Belmont Park that was recorded as firm. However, due to occasional rain that occurred throughout the afternoon, it managed to put some give on the racecourse.
This was extremely suitable for the daughter of Falco who began her incredible racing career in Europe and was regarded as a Group 3 champion in Ireland.
When it came to the race, Xenobia truly enjoyed the turf during her third start in the United States. So much so that she was headstrong as the 8 runners went down the backstretch.
John Velazquez as her jockey initially wanted to rate her in third. However, Xenobia decided to shoot past everyone and catapulted to a 6-length lead following 6 furlongs in a time of 1:10.85.
Xenobia definitely kept running, showing that she had more than enough energy in the tank to eliminate a late bid from Sweet Bye and Bye to confidently finish the 1 1/16 mile course in a mere 1:41.21. She managed to pay $16.40 to win.
Jonathan Thomas provided a tip of the hat to George Strawbridge Jr. as the trainer as well as John Velazquez as the jockey.
Apart from the savvy handling from Velazquez, Thomas was also thankful that Strawbridge Jr. OK’d the running in the Athenia Stakes as opposed to an allowance optional claimer.
Xenobia, in her first two starts in the United States, managed to finish second and fourth in two allowance optional claimers.
“I loved the assertiveness. I though Johnny’s ride into the first turn was Hall of Fame (worthy). She’s a big, striding filly when you get her into a high cruising speed, and she was fortunate enough to see out the trip,” Thomas stated. “Mr. Strawbridge was great. We had an allowance race that ran earlier today as an option, but he decided to roll the dice.”
The victory was the fifth in a total of 13 starts and managed to push Xenobia’s earnings up to $246,606.