Congruent in shape for Laurel Futurity score

Tami Bobo and Lugamo Racing Stable’s Congruent, the most expensive horse in the field, emerged from a tight pack on the far turn to split horses at the top of the stretch and put away a stubborn Otago through the lane to earn his first stakes victory in Saturday’s $150,000 Laurel Futurity at Laurel Park.

The 96th running of the Futurity for 2-year-olds was the first of five stakes worth $575,000 in purses on opening weekend of the calendar year-ending fall meet, serving as co-headliner with the $150,000 Selima for 2-year-old fillies, which went to Born Dapper. Both races were rained off the grass and contested at a mile on the main track.

Ridden by Feargal Lynch for South Florida-based trainer Antonio Sano, Congruent ($23.40) covered the distance in 1:40.45 over a sloppy and sealed surface to win by 2 ½ lengths. It was the second win in four starts for the gray or roan son of Tapit out of the Stormy Atlantic mare Part the Seas, who fetched $350,000 as a 2-year-old in training in March.

“I know we have a good horse. He’s in the process of maturing and growing,” co-owner Luis Gavignano said. “He’s only 2, but he has a great pedigree and since we bought him in Ocala, we knew that we had a good horse. We know that he needs more distance, but he’s improving every race.”

Gavignano said neither he nor Sano was concerned when the race was moved off the turf due to heavy overnight rain that lasted into the morning as a residual of Hurricane Ian.

“When I talked to the trainer, that was one of the points. He was very confident. He said, ‘I know how he’s working, and I think he’s going to do good,” Gavignano said. “One of the things that we saw today, he’s not scared to fight. Before he was a little bit. We put on blinkers for his second race because he was a little bit nervous the first time. Knowing that he’s fighting some good horses, we know that he’s going to be improving.”

Splendor Beauty, one of four horses in the Futurity entered for main track only, got the early jump and led through a quarter-mile in 24.36 seconds and a half in 48.49, pressed to his outside by 20-1 long shot Free Soul. Lynch tucked Congruent in third along the rail, momentarily dropping back to fifth while they awaited room midway around the far turn. Lynch gave Congruent his cue straightening for home, splitting Splendor Beauty to his inside and Free Soul, then engaged in mid-stretch with Otago who had a clear run on the outside, before steadily edging clear.

“They said, ‘Don’t rush him. Just take your time on him and let him settle and relax,’ and he settled beautiful,” Lynch said. “He had a great trip on the rail and went on in between horses. I had to go when I did. I didn’t want to, but that gap was getting smaller so I had to take it. It’s hard to make up ground on this track today. He’s a nice horse.”

Lynch said he also spoke with South Florida-based rider Edgard Zayas about Congruent. Zayas was aboard for each of the colt’s first two starts, including a 2 ½-length maiden victory going seven furlongs Aug. 13 at Gulfstream Park.

“He said he’s a nice horse and the more you sit against him the more he travels, the more he gives you,” Lynch said.

Congruent cruised in the Laurel Futurity. Photo by Jerry Dzierwinski.

Otago was a decisive second, 6 ¾ lengths ahead of Freedom Road, who held off late-running Fun Lovin Criminal by a neck. It was another nose back to We Don’t Need Roads in fifth, followed by Quincy Cafe, Free Soul, Roan Burgundy and Splendor Beauty. Dataman, Dandy Handyman, Fire Baron and Hendrickson were scratched.

“I saw the list and a lot of great horses have won this race,” Gavignano said. “We’re going step by step. Of course, everybody wants to go to the big races but let’s enjoy this one and then we’ll make plans for the next one.”

During their post-race conversation, Lynch raised the idea of trying Congruent at Keeneland.

“I think he’s a good enough horse to go over there,” he said. “If they can find a little spot for him, I wouldn’t be afraid to take him anywhere.”

The Futurity, contested as a Grade 1 from 1973-88 and maintained its graded status through 2004, has a rich history dating back to 1921 inaugural winner Morvich, who would go on to win the 1922 Kentucky Derby. The Futurity has also been won by Triple Crown champions Affirmed, Citation and Secretariat along with Barbaro, In Reality, Honest Pleasure, Quadrangle, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Tapit.