In April, Conagher announced his presence with a 6 ¾-length blitzkrieg of a Keeneland allowance field. And just to remind everyone this is a 3-year-old to watch, Conagher nearly broke the Churchill Downs seven-furlong track record Friday.
En route to his second allowance victory in as many starts, Conagher covered those seven furlongs in 1:20.62. That was .18 seconds off the track record set by Groupie Doll in 2012.
It was another frightening speed display from a colt who is emerging on the radar screen in a hurry. Conagher left Grade 1 winner Gunite (who finished second) and Grade 3 winner Call Me Midnight (fourth) in his wake. To illustrate how bright Conagher shines today, you need to go back to that April allowance win. That nearly seven-length romp and the 97 Beyer Speed Figure came as the 73/1 longest shot in the 12-horse field.
“Let’s just say everyone in the barn did very well that day,” trainer Mike Tomlinson told Churchill Downs’ Kevin Kerstein.
Of course they did. Conagher paid $148.20 to win, $40.40 to place and $19.40 to show on a $2 bet. The 50-cent trifecta with 7/10 favorite Varata and 14.10/1 Micky from Wexford paid $1,566.50.
Where’s the value now?
Bettors learned their lesson in Friday’s allowance optional-claimer. Conagher opened 7/2 on Churchill Downs’ morning line. Horseplayers knocked that down to 8/5 at post time, meaning bettors cashed $5.20 win tickets.
Conagher earned a 108 Equibase Speed Figure Friday, the same Equibase he clocked in that April shocker. Those represented a 24-point jump from his previous high of 84 in his April 2021 debut at Keeneland. That partially explains why bettors could be excused for letting Conagher leave the Keeneland gate at 73/1.
In his previous start, a February Gulfstream Park allowance optional-claimer, Conagher finished a lackluster sixth of eight. That marked the only time in seven starts the Jimmy Creed colt finished off the board.
Conagher took his time maturing
It took four starts for Conagher to break his maiden, which he did last July at Colonial Downs as the 3/2 favorite. After that, Tomlinson gave him the next seven months off.
“Last year as a 2-year-old, he had some minor ailments that we gave him the time to heal from,” Tomlinson said. “He’s come back with a vengeance. We started him back on the grass at Gulfstream since that’s the surface he broke his maiden on. The colt is now mentally mature and turned into an absolute dream around the barn.”
Tomlinson did not say when Conagher would start again. But he did say the colt, owned by Mark and Dianna Farrar and Patricia’s Hope LLC, came out of Friday’s race in great shape.
“It’s great for all the partners involved in this horse,” Tomlinson said. “Mark has been involved in horse racing for 20 years and I’m tickled they are rewarded with a colt like this.”