This week, Keeneland November began. Watching the sale has made it sink in that one of my favourite owners in the sport, Conquest Stables, is dispersing.
I started following their horses as the 2014 Kentucky Derby trail unfolded, thanks to Conquest Titan. I was keen on him after an allowance victory at Churchill, drafted him for my fantasy stable, and followed him through his Derby preps and beyond.
Though Conquest Titan never made it all the way down the Derby trail, I couldn’t help but notice and follow his stablemates. After all, the “Conquest” in their names made them easy to spot in the entries. The teal and orange silks made them just as easy to find on the track.
For the longest time, I thought Conquest Stables was based in Canada. After all, their horses won so many races there. It was a thrill to find out they were based in a suburb of Chicago: my backyard. And, that led to one of my highlights in my life (so far) as a racing fan: meeting the whole Conquest Stables team at the Illinois Derby. Ernie Semersky’s ebullience rivalled my own. As someone who — even now — remains a bit self-conscious about showing too much enthusiasm at the racetrack, my overflowing verve about the sport just fed off of his when we talked that afternoon.
And, two images from that day remain burned in my mind forever. One was the majestic Conquest Curlinate walking around the paddock at Hawthorne before the Illinois Derby. He was a big, grey tank, by my favourite sire, who looked ready to run huge. And, that, he did: he made a strong rally down the stretch, missing Whiskey Ticket by just a nose.
The article I wrote a few weeks later about them starts with the other indelible image: the bracelet around Dory’s wrist, with one charm for each of Conquest Stables’s wins. The bracelet was running out of space, even as of April 2015. I remembered so many of those horses, so many of those races, and loved seeing an enduring, physical reminder of those races
I was already following Conquest Stables’s horses by then, but did so with even more excitement after the Illinois Derby. Their social media feeds made being their fan a blast. Not only did I know their horses by name, I knew them by the funny photoshops Conquest Stables would post on Facebook and Twitter before the races. The one of Conquest Curlinate will always be my favourite, but they were consistently fun, and I looked forward to seeing the latest goofy pictures on social media.
I’m disappointed that Conquest Stables is dispersing, since the ownership was such a part of why I cheered for their horses. It will be so strange to see all of them running in different silks.
Conquest Stables will not be soon forgotten, and should not be. I hope more owners take their lead of having a whimsical and accessible social media presence. This may be the Sport of Kings, but fans love the court jesters.