Congruent’s Co-Owner Luis Gavignano on Taking Turfway’s Path to the Kentucky Derby, His Love of Racing

The Life
The connections of John Battaglia Memorial Stakes winner Congruent (from left to right): Fernando de Jesus, husband of co-owner Tami Bobo; Tami Bobo; Claudia Diaz; and Luis Gavignano. (Courtesy of Luis Gavignano)

Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers and jockeys as they travel the Road to the 149thKentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve on May 6 at Churchill Downs.

This week’s installment features Luis Gavignano, whose Lugamo Racing Stable co-owns Congruent with Tami Bobo. They purchased the gray Tapit colt for $350,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training.

Congruent has won three of nine starts with a pair of third-place finishes for earnings of $240,825 in his young career for South Florida-based trainer Antonio Sano. He placed himself on the Derby trail by capturing the March 4 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on Turfway Park’s Tapeta surface to earn 20 qualifying points.

Congruent can secure a spot in the Derby starting gate with a strong showing in the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks on Saturday back at Turfway. He looms as a prime contender in that 1 1/8-mile contest, which awards qualifying points to the top five finishers on a 100-40-30-20-10 basis. Sonny Leon retains the mount from the Battaglia. That name should sound familiar since Leon pulled one of the great upsets in racing history when Rich Strike shocked the world at 80.80-1 in last year’s Derby.

Gavignano, 55, and his two sons, Luis Jr., 22, and Andres, 18, are involved in multiple industries. The native of Venezuela discussed his passion for racing, Congruent, and Leon’s potential impact as part of a question-and-answer session conducted on behalf of America’s Best Racing.

PEDULLA: How long have you been involved in racing?

GAVIGNANO: I’ve been a horse racing enthusiast since my youth. I became an owner in 2018. My enthusiasm and passion for racing is something I can share with Claudia Diaz, who will soon be my wife.

Congruent winning the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes. (Eclipse Sportswire)

PEDULLA: What do you get out of racing?

GAVIGNANO: I enjoy every single aspect of owning horses and horse racing, from the birth of a horse and seeing it grow and develop and train and appreciating its improvement over time. It is a thrill to go to the racetrack and watch it compete against other horses. It is very satisfying and rewarding to see a horse you invested so much energy and passion into get first place in a race. The adrenaline and thrill can’t be beat.

PEDULLA: What convinced you to buy into Congruent?

GAVIGNANO: I’ve always been a Tapit fan. His offspring have been very successful. When we saw him at the OBS sale and watched his workout, we knew he was talented and decided he was worth buying.

PEDULLA: What went wrong when Congruent ran eighth in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by TAA at Keeneland?

GAVIGNANO: When I think back on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Congruent was not ready. He was not experienced or mature enough. I also think he didn’t adapt well to the track. The Juvenile turned out to be one of the races that was hard, especially for a horse that needed more time to grow and develop.

PEDULLA: Congruent went off at 16.50-1 odds when he won the Battaglia. Were you as surprised as others by the upset?

GAVIGNANO: It wasn’t a surprise. Based on his last workouts, we thought he had a good chance on a synthetic track and at the race distance.

PEDULLA: How do you evaluate Antonio Sano as a trainer?

GAVIGNANO: Antonio Sano has been in the horse business for so many years and has had such an accomplished career. Even back in Venezuela, he was a champion for many years. When I started Lugamo Racing, I followed him on social media for a while and I saw his achievements. Then, when I met him in person, I knew he would be great to train some of my horses. Sano has the capacity to make everyone feel like family. He is so welcoming and friendly. That capacity, mixed with his extensive knowledge, makes the perfect trainer recipe, in my opinion. 

PEDULLA: What does Sonny Leon mean to Congruent?

GAVIGNANO: When we decided that Congruent had to go to Turfway, we knew Sonny Leon was the right jockey for Congruent. We all knew what he did last year when he won the Kentucky Derby with Rich Strike. Sonny is an experienced jockey and knows the track. Therefore, we determined he was the perfect fit and we were right.

PEDULLA: Since Congruent’s biggest victory came on an all-weather surface, can he handle dirt?

GAVIGNANO: I feel Congruent is very adaptable in this way. Looking back, he won a maiden special weight on dirt. The Laurel Futurity was also won on wet dirt. So I think he can handle different surfaces.

PEDULLA: Do you expect to win the Jeff Ruby?

GAVIGNANO: I feel because it is on the same track we won the Battaglia, he will give us a great race. A little extra distance will help with his performance. So definitely we have a good chance.

PEDULLA: What would it mean if you could go on to the Derby and win it?

GAVIGNANO: Just the fact that Congruent could qualify and go to the Derby is a great honor. I think most people in the sport would agree with me that the Derby is the dream to achieve. I can’t even imagine winning. Just the thought is surreal.

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