When you get a 3yo who won on debut as a juvenile on their only start it can really get exciting thinking of the potential that lies ahead. Just a year ago Conga made her winning debut, going down to Haydock for a fillies novice race. Twelve months on and in very similar conditions she doubled her career tally when making all in the 6f BB Foodservice Fillies Handicap at Hamilton.
Conga came to hand early on in the year and Kevin would have the filly ready to run at the beginning of the season. Although her juvenile win had come over 6f, Conga’s work had indicated that a step up in trip would suit. Her first two runs of the year would both be back at the Lancashire track and both Novice events were over 1m. A promising return was followed another solid effort but one that showed Conga did not appreciate the stiffer test of stamina. Although the new trip did not work it did mean that Conga had qualified for a handicap mark, opening up options for the rest of the season.
York was her first taste of handicap company when dropping back to sprinting. Having not stayed 1m it looked as though she didn’t have the pace for 6f, especially at a sharp track. Kevin had one option then and it was to meet in the middle, trying Conga over 7f. Her next start would come around Chester over an extended 7f and would prove to be the best performance since her debut win. Just touched off for second late on, it seemed as though the new trip could be the one. Unfortunately next time out it again seemed as though it was too far and Conga didn’t quite see it out.
It was clear that Conga retained a huge amount of ability but finding the key to unlock it was proving to be problematic. Soft ground, drop to 6f and a stiffer track was the combination Kevin would search for. Hamilton provided all of this and Conga would head to Scotland to take on 5 rival fillies. Small fields are becoming more common as the season progresses with the weather turning and ground becoming an issue. For Conga this was ideal and she would line up in a trappy race. Kevin Stott was back on board, looking to repeat the pair’s win 12 months on.
Although Conga was the top rated filly in the field and proven on the ground there were two rivals shorter in the better. Dancing Rave and Quirky Gertie would both enjoy conditions and Brough better recent form to the race, so would vie for favouritism. Conga has been quickly away all season and despite the drop to sprinting she was fastest away once again. As Kevin whipped the hood off Conga was away and straight into her stride, landing at the from of the 6 runners. With the stalls positioned towards the far side Kevin decided to come towards the centre and the track and the rest followed suit. Racing downhill Conga held a narrow lead as the market leaders tucked in behind her.
Conga didn’t travel ideal for Kevin through the early stages. The ground was fine but she was just fighting for her head a little bit and Kevin had to restrain her from doing too much. With Melrose Place sat on her girths it did press Conga and was probably why she was trying to do a little more than Kevin wanted. The first two pressed on and had a small break on the other quartet.
Heading down to the halfway stage the ground levels off. Kevin tried to utilise his advantage and asked Conga to begin stretching out and lengthening her stride. As he began to wind her up, Conga began to just edge right. Quirky Gertie had tracked her throughout and was travelling smoothly into contentions Melrose Way began to fade away. Despite not giving Kevin the easiest of times Conga was still going forward and began to quicken up.
The race quickly took shape passing the 2f pole. Having travelled sweetly up to this stage, Quirky Gertie now came under a drive to go and pass Conga. Now racing closer to the far side rail, Conga had set sail for home and would be joined by the second favourite as they met the rising ground. As the pair began to fight it out they started to pull away from the rest of the field who could not get involved. Quirky Gertie quickened up to join Conga just over a furlong from home and the last 200 yards would be a real test for these fillies.
As Conga caught a glimpse of her rival she straightened up, changed her legs and looked set for a battle. Quirky Gertie had come through looking the stronger of the two and seemingly she would sweep past the leader. Conga quickly showed that there was plenty left in the tank and as she was joined immediately put a stop to her rival’s run. Both fillies were responding to their jockeys urgings and with 1/2 furlong to run they were eyeball to eyeball. Conga was proving very brave and was battling back at her rival who now knew the race was far from over. The pair were well clear but only had eyes for each other. The rising ground was sapping the energy from the fillies legs and it was Conga who was just finishing the stronger. She had been joined but never passed and fought back with every stride. With just 75 yards to run, Conga stuck her nose back into a clear lead. This was the move that Quirky Gertie had no response for and the win was Conga’s by just a head.
Conga is a filly who has always been well regarded but this season hasn’t quite worked out. She looks the type who needs a real test of 6f or possibly an easy 7f. This will be her last run of the year and Conga will now be sent on her winter break. It does feel as though another year on her back to let her grow once more will really help and next year she could go on to bigger and better things. Mr Guy Reed always produced tough horses Aho seemed to do better with time and Conga looks to fit this bill. This win will see her pushing on to the 80 mark and hopefully this is an ideal stepping stone when she is back in action in 2020.