Conagher Gets First Shot At Big Leagues, With GI Allen Jerkens Stakes
Conagher picked up his first stakes victory earlier this week, and his connections now believe he is ready to move up the horseracing ladder. The speedy 3-year-old colt, sired from Jimmy Creed-You Should Be Here by Niagra Causeway, was impressive as he went wire-to-wire effort against some other talented sophomores in the $100,000 Housebuster Overnight Handicap at Colonial Downs on Aug. 1. Conagher will head to Saratoga for his first Grade I race in the H. Allen Jerkens Memorial in a few of weeks.
“We’ll find out how high we can go with him,” Conagher trainer Michael Tomlinson said. “Saratoga is an exciting and fun place to be. The atmosphere is unmatched, that’s for sure.”
Going off as a 2-5 favorite from the inside post, Conagher didn’t disappoint in the Overnight Handicap (black type stakes) as he got off to his usual fast start and never looked back. Showing early pace, Conagher broke out of the gate first ahead of the betting’s second choice Old Homestead.
Conagher held a half-length midway through the seven-furlong event lead after posting brisk fractions of:22.37 and:44.44. He was finally able to shake his competition, at the urging of jockey Joe Rocco Jr., before crossing the finish line 2 ¼ lengths ahead of Old Homestead in an eye-popping 1:21.24.
“This horse is probably as fast of a horse that I have ever trained,” said Tomlinson. Tomlinson has a career 13.7% winning percentage, a 40.1% WPS% in 4,602 career starts, seven graded stakes winners, and lifetime winnings of over $16 million.
What makes the victory so sweet is that Housebuster Overnight Handicap was probably the stiffest competition that the Kentucky-bred horse has faced. While 10 horses were supposed to race, the field ended up with six competitors, including Old Homestead, who previously won a listed stakes event, and Exxell, who entered on a two-race win streak. Listed stakes champions Scaramouche, Unified Report, and Argentian group 2 winner Editorial Comment were all stewards scratches.
The Housebuster Overnight Handicap was part of the first “Monday Mid-Atlantic Pick 4-wager,” where two races from each Colonial Downs and Monmouth Park are combined. A total of $45,533 was wagered on the initial pool, with the winners getting $54.48. The promo will run every Monday thru September 5.
Purchased for a mere $9,000 as a yearling, Conagher has made his ownership group of Mark Farrar- Patricia’s Hope LLC a bundle. It took four races before Conagher broke his maiden, but he has been rolling lately. He has a 9-4-3-1 record with career earnings of $312 353.
Before the Housebuster Overnight Handicap, Conagher finished second in the one and one-sixteenth mile listed Iowa Derby. Conagher stalked the pacesetter in that race and led by four lengths down the stretch before being caught by next-out Iowa Stallion Stakes winner Ain’t Life Grand. The only time Conagher has not hit the board was his first start of the 2022 campaign when he finished sixth in a five-furlong optional claiming race on the turf at Gulfstream.
H. Allen Jerkens Memorial Stakes
The Allen Jerkens Memorial, on August 27, will be Conagher’s first foray into a graded stakes event and the most formidable competition he has faced. It will also be his first race at the fabled upstate New York race rack.
The $275,000, seven-furlong Grade I stake event is named for the late legendary trainer H. Allen Jerkens for his contributions to the sport. The Saratoga race attracts some of the best 3-year-olds in the country. Jackie’s Warrior claimed the event’s title last year, with Echo Town, Mind Control, Runhappy, and Hard Spun being among the other past winners.
While the field for Allen Jerkens is not set, Conagher should be “labeled” as a contender though I don’t expect him to be the favorite. . He has three wins in five starts this year, including going 3-for-3 in sprints. Conagher also has the second highest E-Speed rating (108) among 3-year-olds in sprints going one turn this year.
However, the other two horses with similar E-Speed ratings are also slated to participate in the race. Jack Christopher (5-4-0-1) posted an E-Speed rating of 108 while winning the Grade I Woody Stephens Stakes in June and will likely be set as the favorite despite finishing third in the TVG Haskell Stakes his last time out, ending his winning streak at four.
Similarly, Charge It (5-2-2-0) – who finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby – will also be one of the favorites. The son of Tapit is coming off his best race, registering an E-Speed of 117, while blowing away the competition in the Grade III Dwyer Stakes as he won by an incredible 23 lengths.
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