Two From Two for Group One-bound Congregation
05 June 2023
Exciting two-year-old colt Congregation (Snitzel), who is part-owned by Pencarrow principal Sir Peter Vela, extended his unbeaten record to two out of two with a determined win in Saturday’s A$150,000 Tab Handicap (1300m) at Rosehill.
Stepping up from a debut victory in a midweek meeting at Canterbury on May 24, the Chris Waller-trained delivered a repeat result against a talented Saturday field and has put himself in the frame for a Group One assignment.
After settling in fourth and one off the rail, Kerrin McEvoy brought Congregation to the outside to lodge his challenge at the top of the Rosehill straight.
He took a clear lead, but then looked vulnerable as his highly rated stablemate Tutta La Vita (The Autumn Sun) flashed through the inside in what had all the hallmarks of a winning move. But Congregation saw her coming and lifted again, clinging on to the narrowest of leads and winning by a nose.
“He’s done a nice job,” said McEvoy, who has been in the saddle for both of Congregation’s raceday starts. “He had an awkward draw today (gate six in a seven-horse field), but he pinged out well and I just had to put him in a spot.
“He travelled sweetly, and coming up to the turn I just didn’t want to hit the front too soon on him. As crazy as it sounds, the other horse actually helped him in that last little bit.
“He’s going to be better once the penny fully drops, and he’s still a preparation away. He’s still learning. It’s exciting to see him two from two now.
“Chris said before the race that it was quite a quick turnaround from his first run, but he’d done well in between times and we have quite nice ground here at the moment without too much rain around. It’s different to other years, when the tracks are quite heavy and trainers are having to give these young horses more time between their races.
“He’s exciting, and I think the best is ahead of him next preparation.”
Congregation was already an enormously valuable colt before he had even set foot on a racetrack – he was bought for A$2.25m as a yearling, and he is a full-brother to the Group One Golden Slipper (1200m) winner Estijaab (Snitzel).
By champion sire Snitzel, Congregation is out of the Charge Forward mare Response, who herself won the Group One Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (1400m) and Robert Sangster Stakes (1200m).
Congregation is the fifth winner from six foals to race out of Response. In addition to Estijaab, she is also the dam of the Group Two-placed Remarque (Snitzel) and the Listed-placed Alter Call (Fastnet Rock).
Sir Peter Vela shares ownership of Congregation with Coolmore, Wynaus, Westerberg, Joe Poulin, Chris Waller Racing, Lynque, Woppitt Bloodstock, Peachester Lodge, Kerry and Jenny Pooley, Rockingham Thoroughbreds, Robert McClure and Katsumi Yoshida.
With his two wins from two starts, Congregation has so far banked A$135,400 for his owners, and he is set to step up to Group One level for next Saturday’s JJ Atkins Stakes (1600m).
“I’ll go home pretty happy today,” Waller said. “Congregation is just a lovely colt who keeps improving. He’s just a baby, really, compared to where he’ll end up. He’s got a really exciting future.
“He came again when the filly got up on his inside today. It was a clever ride from Kerrin. It wasn’t an easy draw, and he got him into a beautiful position and taught him to be a racehorse.
“The plan is to run this colt in the JJ Atkins if he pulls up well. He is similar to The Autumn Sun (Redoute’s Choice) in that they are the type of horse that don't win by far, but they find a way to win.”