Laurel Futurity winner Congruent aims for Derby berth

Tami Bobo and Lugamo Racing Stable’s Congruent, winner of the historic Laurel Futurity last fall at Laurel Park, is rated as the third choice in a field of 12 for his next start, the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) Saturday at Turfway Park.

Based at Gulfstream Park with trainer Antonio Sano, Congruent returns to Kentucky just three weeks after his last-to-first 3 ½-length upset of the 1 1/16-mile John Battaglia Memorial March 4 over Turfway’s all-weather surface at odds of 16-1.

“I’m glad that he’s in the mix to be one of the contenders. Obviously, it’s going to be a tough race,” Lugamo’s Luis Gavignano said. “There are some very talented horses in the field. Anyone is eligible to show their talent in that particular race. There are good horses in the race.”

A 3-year-old son of Grade 1 winner and noted sire Tapit, Congruent worked once since the Battaglia, a five-furlong breeze in 1:01.37 over Gulfstream’s main track. Jockey Sonny Leon, aboard for the first time in the Battaglia, was up for the work.

“He had his last breeze at Gulfstream, a good work, and we shipped the horse Saturday to Turfway Park. He arrived on Sunday and since then he’s been walking one day and then galloping a full turn,” Gavignano said. “He’s been great.”

Leon, formerly based at Turfway, has been riding full-time at Gulfstream this winter. Last spring, Leon and Rich Strike sprung an 82-1 upset of the Kentucky Derby (G1) after running fourth in the Battaglia and third in the Jeff Ruby.

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

“The connection between the jockey and the horse, in my opinion, is very important. It has to be that way. You have to understand the horse, you have to know whatever the horse is doing,” Gavignano said. “I think Sonny showed that he knows the horse and he likes the horse. Sonny, it also used to be his home track. When you combine all those factors, I think we have a good chance.”

Congruent had one win, a maiden special weight triumph at Gulfstream last summer, in three starts before arriving in Maryland for the Laurel Futurity, which was rained off the grass and contested at one mile. He stalked the pace before taking a short lead into the stretch and pulling away to a 2 ½-length victory.

From there Congruent stayed on dirt for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), finishing eighth, before running third in the Pulpit, fourth in the Dania Beach and sixth to Jeff Ruby program favorite Major Dude in the Feb. 4 Kitten’s Joy (G3), all over the Gulfstream turf.

“Usually the Tapits, they show more as the time goes by. I think the horse is showing now that he’s more comfortable,” Gavignano said. “He’s showing that he’s maturing, and that’s why we have the confidence that he’s going to run a great race. He’s moving in the right direction.”

The Jeff Ruby carries a total of 200 Kentucky Derby (G1) qualifying points (100-40-30-20-10) to the top five finishers. Nominated to the Triple Crown, Congruent is currently ranked 14th with 20 points; the top 20 point earners gain spots in the Derby.

“We are going step by step. We’ll see how he runs and comes out of the next race, and hopefully we can qualify for the Kentucky Derby,” Gavignano said. “It’s the dream for everybody.”