2023 Kentucky Derby Hopeful Snapshots: Congruent

Congruent, with Sonny Leon aboard, won the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes March 4 at Turfway Park to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. (Coady Photography)

Welcome to 2023 Kentucky Derby Prospect Snapshots, where we’ll take a look each week at a recent winner on the Triple Crown trail, usually from the Road to the Kentucky Derby schedule from which the racehorses earn points toward qualifying.

The 1 ¼-mile, $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve will be held May 6, 2023, at Churchill Downs.

This week, we’ll take a closer look at Congruent, winner of the $147,500 John Battaglia Memorial Stakes on March 4 at Turfway Park.

Congruent earned his first 20 points toward qualifying for the 2023 Kentucky Derby with the John Battaglia Memorial win and moved into 14th place on the latest Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.


Gray or Roan Colt

Sire (father): Tapit

Dam (mother): Part the Seas, by Stormy Atlantic

Owners: Tami Bobo and Lugamo Racing Stable

Breeders: Tapit Syndicate and Glencrest Farm (Ky.)

Trainer: Antonio Sano

Racing Résumé: Congruent won one of his first three races before posting a 2 ½-length victory in an off-the-turf edition of the $150,000 Laurel Futurity on a sloppy track Oct. 1, 2022, gave his connections the confidence to test him in the FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. The flashy gray colt by Tapit endured a troubled trip in the Breeders’ Cup, but he showed little in the race when eighth, beaten by 21 ¾ lengths at 92.05-1 odds.

He was switched to turf for his final start as a 2-year-old, finishing third in the Pulpit Stakes in December at Gulfstream Park, and stayed on the grass for his first two races in 2023. Congruent failed to distinguish himself when unplaced in the Dania Beach Stakes and Grade 3 Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream.

Trainer Antonio Sano sent the colt to Turfway Park for the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Derby qualifier on the synthetic Tapeta Footings surface offering 20 points to the winner.

The surface switch and a fast pace keyed a breakout performance from Congruent, who closed from last to first to win the 1 1/16-mile race while pulling away to prevail by 3 ½ lengths with a final sixteenth of a mile in a sprightly 5.93 seconds.

Congruent was nine lengths back and last of 12 as pacesetter American Speed set the tempo through a half-mile in :45.93. The swift pace set up Congruent’s closing rally as he passed nine horses in the final five-sixteenths of a mile using a sweeping bid to take command.

“Tonight, up the backside, [Congruent] was a little keen to go on with things but I wanted to wait for another two or three furlongs,” winning jockey Sonny Leon said after Congruent earned his third win in nine starts. “He was full of run and really opened up late in the stretch.”

Speed Figures: By just about any measure, the Battaglia was a breakout performance for Congruent and the speed figures support that. He earned a career-best 100 Equibase Speed Figure, a 12-point improvement; he was given a 91 Beyer Speed Figure, nine points better than his previous best; and matched a career-top 94 Brisnet speed rating that was six points better than his previous best mark on the main track.

Running Style: Congruent showed some tactical speed earlier in his career, pressing the pace in his maiden win and stalking the pace from third in the Laurel Futurity, but he seems to have settled in this year as an off-the-pace runner capable of a sustained rally. The pace scenario no doubt helped his chances in the Battaglia and he had a better trip than runner-up Scoobie Cuando, but the race serves as a reminder that closers are always somewhat dependent upon pace and navigating a good trip. The latter is especially difficult to predict in a 20-horse field on Kentucky Derby day.

Mike Battaglia presents the winner’s trophy to Sonny Leon. (Coady Photography)

Connections: Trainer Antonio Sano purchased Congruent for $350,000 at the 2022 OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training on behalf of owners Tami Bobo and Lugamo Racing Stable. Ocala-based Bobo and Fernando de Jesus, her husband, operate First Finds, a weanling to yearling pinhooking operation. Bobo and Sano teamed to win the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes last year with Simplification, who went on to run fourth in the 2022 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.

Sonny Leon is the fifth different rider to pilot Congruent. Leon also is a familiar name for those who watched last year’s Kentucky Derby as he won the run for the roses aboard 80.80-1 longshot Rich Strike. Leon previously was based at Turfway Park and rode Rich Strike to a fourth-place finish in last year’s John Battaglia Memorial and a third-place finish at Turfway in the Jeff Ruby Steaks.

“Turfway Park is home and I’m so glad to be back,” Leon said after Congruent’s win. “It’s so exciting to come back home and win this race after Rich Strike ran well in it last year.”

Edgard Zayas has ridden Congruent in five of his nine races.

Pedigree Notes: I went into detail last week about Congruent’s sire Tapit’s success as a stallion from a class and stamina perspective, and the simple reality is he is one of the best stallions on the planet with 165 stakes winners and 103 group/graded stakes winners through March 16 from 15 crops age 3 and older. The three-time leading sire is responsible for 2022 Horse of the Year Flightline and four of the last nine winners of the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes: Tonalist (2014), Creator (2016), Tapwrit (2017), and Essential Quality (2021). 

Congruent was produced by the Stormy Atlantic mare Part the Seas, a Grade 3 winner going seven-eighths of a mile on Woodbine’s Tapeta Footings main track. She also was a stakes winner on the grass and finished fourth, beaten by two lengths, in the 1 ¼-mile Wonder Where Stakes, the final leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara for 3-year-old fillies.

Congruent’s half-brother (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) Oceans Map, by Liam’s Map, was a stakes winner at 1 ½ miles on the turf.

Derby Potential: Like many winners of the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes and Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park, surface not stamina is the big question to be answered coming out of synthetic-surface prep races for the Kentucky Derby.

I have little doubt Congruent can handle 1 ¼ miles, but can he run as well or better – which he almost certainly would need to do to be a Kentucky Derby win candidate – on the dirt main track at Churchill Downs on May 6? That’s the $3 million question.

Animal Kingdom in 2011 and Rich Strike in 2022 showed it can be quite lucrative to support horses coming out of the Turfway Kentucky Derby prep races, but I can understand why Congruent has his skeptics because I’m one of them. Another big race in the Jeff Ruby Steaks and I might be ready to jump on Congruent’s bandwagon.

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