Congrats answered the question whether he can win two races in a row. The answer is yes.
The 4-year-old A.P. Indy
colt won his first start of the year, an allowance race at Keeneland April 3. Today, he made it two straight, taking the Alysheba Stakes on the Kentucky Oaks day undercard at Churchill Downs.
He had won five of his previous 10 starts, but never put together back-to-back victories. Under John Velazquez, he took the lead early, and then let Kodema have the lead in the turn. But as they straightened away for home, he retook the lead and held it as favored Perfect Drift came on for second. Kodema held on for third.
Congrats was bred and is owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider and trained by Shug McGaughey. Covering the 1 1/16 mile in 1:44.31, he paid $9.60, $4, and $3.40 in winning his first stakes. Perfect Drift returned $3 and $2.60 and Kodema was worth $4.
"It's been kind of a long morning with these races in the mud," McGaughey said. "We've been just waiting and waiting. I knew the horse had to be good this morning. It's great to finally win his first stakes.
"I didn't expect to see him go wire-to-wire here. In the middle of the turn I was about ready to throw my program away."
Velazquez admitted things didn't go quite as planned.
"I expected more to be laying third or fourth here, but my instructions were to keep him in the clear," he said. "When he went for the lead, he sure stayed in the clear.
"In the past, he didn't handle a wet track, but today was no problem at all. I just kept him busy in the lane, which is what you do usually. But he did his job."
McGaughey said the Stephen Foster (gr. I) on June 12 is the next objective for Congrats, who nabbed first money of $70,432 and increased his lifetime earnings to $324,890. .
Perfect Drift's trainer Murray Johnson said he's aiming for the Foster as well.
"He got a little tired at the end and that is what we expected, because we had a long winter (at owner Dr. William Reed's farm in Kansas City)," Johnson said. "We have a little time to get him freshened up and ready. We've got a fit horse now."
The fractions on a sloppy track were :24.16, :48.04, 1:12.04 and 1:37.64.