Kentucky Derby pedigree profile: Confidence Game

February 27th, 2023

A well-timed rally from midfield carried Confidence Game to victory in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park, stamping the improving colt as a viable contender for the 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1).

From a pedigree perspective, Confidence Game’s emergence as a graded stakes-caliber competitor is far from surprising. He may have been an 18-1 longshot in the Rebel betting, but Confidence Game hails from classy bloodlines and is following the family example with success at a high level.

Confidence Game Pedigree
Ride the Rails
Candy Ride
Candy Girl
Confidence Game

Confidence Game’s sire is Candy Ride, a versatile turf and dirt campaigner who set a still-standing stakes record of 1:59.11 in 2003 when dominating Medaglia d'Oro in the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1) over the Del Mar dirt. Candy Ride has proven similarly versatile at stud, siring major winners over a variety of distances on dirt, turf, and synthetic.

Many of Candy Ride’s runners have won Grade 1 sprints, but others have been clear-cut route racers. Gun Runner finished third in the 2016 Kentucky Derby before developing into a Horse of the Year and Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) winner in 2017. Shared Belief and Game Winner both earned champion two-year-old male honors and did their best work running one mile or farther. Misremembered won the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita H. (G1).

All told, the progeny of Candy Ride win at an average distance of 7.1 furlongs, the mark of a stallion capable of siring both sprinters and routers with roughly equal aplomb. Which type of runner you get depends in no small part on the pedigree of the dam; is she bred for speed or stamina? In the case of Confidence Game, the answer is clear: he’s absolutely bred for stamina.

Confidence Game is the first winner produced by Eblouissante, a daughter of Preakness (G1) hero and champion three-year-old male Bernardini out of the Kris S. mare Vertigineux. If the name Vertigineux sounds familiar, that’s because she’s the dam of Hall of Fame inductee Zenyatta and three-time Grade 1 winner Balance, both pure route racers who improved with maturity. Zenyatta in particular came to hand late, winning 17 consecutive graded stakes at ages four, five, and six. She’s the only filly or mare to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and earned Horse of the Year honors in 2010.

Eblouissante didn’t accomplish as much as her half-siblings, but she did win a maiden special weight and an allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/16 miles on the Southern California circuit, so she shared the affinity for route racing displayed by Zenyatta and Balance. That’s to be expected since Vertigineux scored both of her victories racing 1 1/4 miles and Bernardini was a stoutly bred router known for siring 1 1/4-mile Travers (G1) winners Stay Thirsty and Alpha plus 1 1/8-mile Pegasus World Cup (G1) hero Art Collector.

Bernardini has also proven to be a source of stamina as a broodmare sire. His daughters have foaled Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Serengeti Empress, Travers hero Catholic Boy, Saudi Cup (G1) winner Emblem Road, two-time Pegasus World Cup Turf (G1) victor Colonel Liam, and Clark H. (G1) winner Maxfield, all of whom achieved their signature victories racing 1 1/8 miles or farther.

If there’s one knock on the pedigree of Confidence Game, it’s the fact neither Candy Ride nor Bernardini are responsible for a Kentucky Derby winner—not as sires, grandsires, or broodmare sires. But there’s a first time for everything, and the Kentucky Derby distance shouldn’t be an obstacle for Confidence Game, so this improving colt is worth watching for on the first Saturday in May.