By J.J. Hysell
Conquest Titan began his career as a front-running speed horse. In his first two races, he was pushed to an early lead, and only able to carry that speed once – on synthetic in the seven-furlong Swynford Stakes at Woodbine.
A change in tactics has resulted in a rejuvenated – and much more successful – Conquest Titan. Trainer Mark Casse elected to go in a different direction with the son of Birdstone, and he responded with one of the best races of the 2013 juvenile season.
When he returned to Churchill Downs from a disappointing run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, a race in which he was hustled on the pace early but regressed, Conquest Titan was supposed to alter his style and come from off the pace.
What happened, however, wasn’t by design. The colt stumbled at the start of his optional claiming race on Nov. 30 and was left far behind his 11 foes. He remained at the back of the pack until jockey Shaun Bridgmohan asked him for run, and he orchestrated a mesmerizing rally in which he adeptly maneuvered through traffic in the mile test and passed each rival. He emerged the leader and won by a length and three-quarters.
That solidified the colt’s future moving forward. Stepping back into stakes company again in Saturday’s Grade 2 Holy Bull, the plan once again was to have Conquest Titan make a run from off the pace. Once again, however, he was compromised at the start.
Breaking from a wide post (nine) in the field of 11 going 1 1/16-miles, Conquest Titan was pinched back in the flurry of outside horses trying to gain position heading into the first turn. He was left last.
“We had hoped to not be so far back, but going into the first turn, they sandwiched him, so Shaun (Bridgmohan) did the right thing and took him back,” Casse said. “This is not the easiest place to come from out of it.”
As he did at Churchill Downs, Conquest Titan bided his time and embarked on a rally midway through the race. Seventh in the stretch, he made up substantial ground to finish second to dominant winner Cairo Prince.
Although he wasn’t beating Cairo Prince, Conquest Titan once again overcame adversity. Most importantly, he closed from last on a surface known for favoring front-runners and stalkers.
“We wanted to know if he fit with these horses, and I think he proved that today,” Casse said. “He has a special place he likes really well (Churchill Downs) and they run there on the first Saturday in May, so that’s good. I’ll have to talk to the owner, but we’ll probably stay here.”