July 14, 2024

Confidence Game punches Derby ticket for Desormeaux with Rebel upset

Confidence Game wins the Rebel Stakes (Photo by Coady Photography)

Trainer Keith Desormeaux had a strong taste of what it was like to have one of the nation’s best three-year-olds in 2016, when Exaggerator finished second in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and later won the Preakness (G1).

Confidence Game has a ways to go to match that colt’s accomplishments, but at least cemented his position in this year’s Derby field with an upset win in Saturday’s $1 million Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park.

Contested over a sloppy track, the Rebel attracted a field of 11, with the Brad Cox-trained Verifying (3-2) and Giant Mischief (2-1) the market leaders. Confidence Game, a distant third to the Cox-trained Instant Coffee in last month’s Lecomte (G3), was sent off at 18-1.

Confidence Game received a great trip. While longshots Powerful and Frosted Departure duked it out on the front end, setting an honest pace of :22.75, :46.17, and 1:11.45, Confidence Game rated nicely in fifth while racing outside in the third flight.

When the two leaders began to tire around the far turn, both Verifying and Giant Mischief, who had raced in tandem in the second flight, were poised to pounce. However, jockey James Graham also felt it a good time to make a move with Confidence Game.

After making a four-wide bid turning for home, Confidence Game quickly put away Verifying and the others who had raced near the front. Although Red Route One made rallied from the rear of the field, it came far too late to affect Confidence Game, who held on to win by a length in a time of 1:44.21 for 1 1/16 miles.

Owned by Don’t Tell My Wife Stables, Confidence Game returned $39. Red Route One, the runner-up in last month’s Southwest (G3), earned silver again by 1 1/2 lengths over California shipper Reincarnate, who was squeezed in between rivals in mid-stretch when attempting to rally alongside Red Route One. Verifying weakened to fourth, three parts of a length ahead of 77-1 outsider Bourbon Bash. The order of finish was rounded out by Giant Mischief, Gun Pilot, Frosted Departure, Powerful, Event Detail, and Talladega.

Confidence Game boosted his Derby point total from seven points to 57 with the win. He previously earned six points in the Lecomte and one point for his fifth-place run in the Iroquois (G3) last September. Red Route One earned 20 points in the Rebel and now has 33. Reincarnate earned his first 15 points, Verifying boosted his total from four to 14, and Bourbon Bash earned his first five points.

Confidence Game has now won three of seven starts. His two earlier wins both occurred at Churchill Downs, by five lengths in a six-furlong maiden last August in his second career start, and by a half-length over eventual Holy Bull (G3) winner Rocket Can in a 1 1/16-mile allowance in November. 

Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Equine, Confidence Game sold for a mere $25,000 at Keeneland September. By Candy Ride, he was produced by Eblouissante, a Bernardini half-sister to the legendary Hall of Fame mare Zenyatta and multiple Grade 1 winner Balance.