Arkansas Derby Could be Next for Confidence Game

Don’t Tell My Wife Stables’ Confidence Game (Candy Ride {Arg}) exited his upset win in Saturday’s GII Rebel S. in fine shape, according to trainer Keith Desormeaux.

“He’s happy,” Desormeaux said Sunday. “He looks a lot more calm and happy than he was in that damn [indoor] paddock.”

The Rebel victory propelled Confidence Game to the top of the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 57 points.

Confidence Game shipped back to Desormeaux’s Fair Grounds base Sunday afternoon, but could return to Oaklawn Park for the GI Arkansas Derby Apr. 1.

“For sure, TBA–depending on how he returns and it will give us a couple of weeks to let him rest and see how he bounces back, but all options are open,” Desormeaux said of the colt’s next start. “It could be in Arkansas, Louisiana, maybe even the Blue Grass, I don’t know. Obviously, with our success here and the way we were treated, our first option is going to be the Arkansas Derby.”

A maiden winner at Churchill Downs last August, Confidence Game entered the Rebel off a third-place effort in the Jan. 21 GIII Lecomte S.

Sent off at 18-1 in the Rebel, he was fifth through a demanding :46.17 half-mile before launching a four-wide move to the lead turning for home. Confidence Game opened a 1 1/2-length advantage in midstretch and held late-running Red Route One (Gun Runner) safe in the final 100 yards.

“Everything worked in his favor,” Desormeaux said. “I was telling the ownership group last night that pace, I’ve watched races there for two days, and that pace was about two seconds faster than anything I had seen. So, it set up great for him. I don’t know how many people buy into this, but as far as the pedigree was concerned, as far as propensity for the off track, he had the highest number. The off track probably helped us. Perfect trip. Here we are.”

Trainer Brad Cox was looking for his fifth win in the Rebel, but instead watched 3-2 favorite Verifying (Justify) and 2-1 second choice Giant Mischief (Into Mischief) finish fourth and sixth, respectively, after chasing the fast pace.

“I was hoping to learn a good bit from yesterday’s race,” Cox said Sunday morning. “I’m not sure I learned as much as I was looking or hoping to. That would be the best way to sum that up. That’s the honest to God way I looked at the race. I really thought I was going to find out something yesterday and I don’t know what I found out.”

Verifying was making his first start since a powerful Jan. 14 one-mile allowance victory at Oaklawn, while the Rebel marked the 3-year-old debut of Giant Mischief, who concluded 2022 with a runner-up finish in the Remington Park Springboard Mile Dec. 17.

Verifying was bottled up turning for home under Florent Geroux in the Rebel and was beaten 5 1/4 lengths by Confidence Game. Giant Mischief was beaten 6 1/2 lengths.

“Verifying lost a lot of position from the quarter pole to the eighth pole,” Cox said. “He went from basically being fourth to eighth or ninth. You can’t do that in these type of races with these good horses. In my eyes he remains on the Derby trail and is a contender. Giant Mischief was in contention turning for home. He hadn’t raced in a while. He may have needed the race. I wouldn’t say he’s off the trail at all. We’ll regroup with the team and come up with a plan here in the near future.”

Cox has six of the top 17 horses on the latest Kentucky Derby leaderboard released by Churchill Downs.

“We’re going to be there,” Cox said. “I don’t know with who.”

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