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Game of Silks: Rebel Stakes winner reaffirms that Derby dreams can be affordable

Game of Silks: Rebel Stakes winner reaffirms that Derby dreams can be affordable

Confidence Game, shown winning the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes last Saturday, sold for only $25,000 as a yearling. Credit: Coady Photography

If you believe that Kentucky Derby dreams are reserved only for deep-pocketed owners, think again. Confidence Game’s upset victory in the Grade 2, $1 million Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park last Saturday essentially guarantees him a spot in the $3 million Kentucky Derby, proving once again that you can’t measure a racehorse’s talent and heart by its sale price.

Confidence Game sold for only $25,000 as a yearling, but look at him now. The son of Candy Ride has raced seven times, with three wins and $785,525 in earnings. He leads the current crop of 3-year-olds with 57 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, more than enough to secure one of the 20 spots in the starting gate May 6 at Churchill Downs.

Winning the Rebel Stakes was worth 50 Derby points, and Confidence Game already had seven, having finished third in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds last month and fifth in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs last September. He’ll likely have his final Derby prep race either in the Grade 2, $1 million Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 25 or the Grade 1, $1.25 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on April 1.

In the Rebel, Confidence Game launched a four-wide bid entering the final turn of the 1 1/16-mile race, overtaking the frontrunners with a furlong to go and finishing a length ahead of Red Route One, who did well to rally on the sloppy track. An 18-1 long shot in the field of 11, Confidence Game was ridden by James Graham for trainer Keith Desormeaux.

Confidence Game’s victory serves as a reminder to Game of Silks owners that they shouldn’t rely solely on sale price when evaluating young horses for their racing stables. That said, Confidence Game’s half-brother certainly didn’t slip through any cracks. That colt sold for $375,000 and has been delivered to a Game of Silks owner.

The 2-year-old colt was sired by the late More Than Ready, who ranks sixth in North American racing history with $143.5 million in progeny earnings. Confidence Game and his brother were produced by Eblouissante, a daughter of Bernardini who won two races.

Eblouissante has four foals of racing age, but Confidence Game is her only starter. The second dam, or maternal grandmother, is Vertigineux, who produced the legendary Zenyatta, the only female to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Vertigineux also produced Grade 1 winner Balance and stakes winner Where’s Bailey.

Confidence Game is among three stakes winners from last weekend with siblings in the first Game of Silks catalog, which includes all the thoroughbreds born in 2021 that were entered in a public auction prior to publication. Many of those 2-year-olds will launch their racing careers this year, perhaps as early as April, when Keeneland traditionally holds the year’s first “baby races.”

Here’s a look at those two other stakes winners:

ELITE POWER (Group 3, $1.5 million Riyadh Dirt Sprint, King Abdulaziz Racecourse, 1,200 meters, or about six furlongs) – The reigning champion male sprinter stretched his winning streak to six races, launching a powerful bid from the middle of the pack under jockey Frankie Dettori and finishing 3 1/4 lengths clear of runner-up Gunite.

Elite Power, who won the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, has won six of his nine starts for $2.31 million. He has a full brother who didn’t change hands at public auction and is still available to be minted in Game of Silks.

The siblings were sired by Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year who ranked third among North American stallions last year with $19.2 million in progeny earnings. They were produced by Broadway’s Alibi, a talented daughter of Vindication. In 2012, Broadway’s Alibi won the Grade 2 Forward Gal and Grade 3 Comely before finishing second in the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, the nation’s premier race for 3-year-old fillies.

The second dam is the stakes winner Broadway Gold, who’s produced seven winners, including Grade 3 winner Golden Lad and stakes winner R Gypsy Gold. This female family is stacked. Third dam Miss Doolittle produced eight winners, including Dialed In, who won the 2011 Florida Derby and is now a successful stallion. Fourth dam Eliza, the champion juvenile filly of 1992, produced eight winners.

NEURAL NETWORK ($97,000 Gander Stakes, Aqueduct, 3-year-old New York-breds, one mile) – This colt crossed the wire second, 1 1/2 lengths behind Maker’s Candy, but the order of finish was reversed by the stewards due to interference. Maker’s Candy drifted out twice during the eventful stretch run, forcing Neural Network to alter his path and steady, or lose momentum, near the wire.

Neural Network, trained by Chad Brown, now has two wins from three starts for $102,500 in earnings. Both wins have come in races restricted to New York-breds, allowing him to compete for big money without taking on talented runners from across the country.

His New York-bred half-sister, Wrong One, will have those same opportunities. That filly sold for just $1,500 as a yearling but almost certainly would go for much more at a sale of 2-year-olds in training thanks to her brother’s success. Wrong One is still available in Silks.

Wrong One is from the first crop of foals sired by Preservationist, a Grade 1 stakes winner who earned $1.08 million while dealing with several injuries. She’s the third foal produced by Lapinski, a daughter of Street Cry who won a race at age 2. Second dam Burgundy Ice was a winner in England and has produced four winners, including stakes winner Sunset Wish.

Third dam Cara Rafaela was the star of this female family. A Grade 1-winning juvenile with $884,452 in career earnings, she was named the Kentucky Broodmare of the Year in 2006, the same year that her son Bernardini was named champion 3-year-old male. Cara Rafaela produced seven winners, including Grade 1 winner Ile de France.

About Game of Silks: It’s a next-generation fantasy sports game that tokenizes each racehorse into a digital collectible that can be bought and sold. In 2023, Silks owners will receive 1% of their horses’ real-world purse earnings, a figure that’s expected to rise steadily in subsequent years.

As a dynasty fantasy contest, Game of Silks allows players to retain ownership of their horses for the duration of their racing and breeding careers, potentially earning rewards for a decade or more. Owners also are free to sell at any time.

Launched last April, Silks already is among the top 10 sports-themed NFT platforms on the Ethereum blockchain.