Champion Filly/Mare: Confined

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ST profiled the steeplechase champions in its December edition and will re-run those articles here.

Sherry Fenwick took a late fall visit to Jonathan Sheppard’s barn tocheck on Confined, the 5-year-old mare she co-owns with the Hall ofFame trainer. She found the strapping bay nestled nicely in her stall,between flat champions Informed Decision and Forever Together.

Confined fit right in.

Buoyed by a late fall stakes surge, Confined ran away with the NSA’s filly/mare championship and reminded Fenwick, who worked for Sheppard in the early 1990s, of the dedication it takes to produce a champion.

“Working with Jonathan and all the great help he had and all the great horses he had, I know just how hard the people and the jumpers work and what they go through, so this makes it very special,” Fenwick said. “For five years I did everything from riding and saddling horses to tacking and feeding them lunch every day. I left in 1996 but we remained great pals and I always paid close attention to his stable and over time we’ve been involved together on some different horses.”

Confined, whom Sheppard co-bred with former steeplechase owner Warren Dempsey, quickly moved to the top of Fenwick’s list. The daughter of Mojave Moon started her season with a third in Nashville’s Margaret Henley in May before venturing to the flat over the summer at Presque Isle Downs. Though Confined lost all three starts, the legwork set her up for a fall campaign that started with a 5-length win in Far Hills’ Peapack-Guelph and ended with a gutsy, nose decision over highly regarded stablemate Sweet Shani in Callaway’s Crown Royal. The win went a long way in clinching the title, but Sheppard viewed the main track as a pivotal part of the year.

“I think she got some extra seasoning from the flat racing even though she didn’t do much in terms of winning,” Sheppard said. “She was able to keep ticking over and get some fitness and gain some maturity and that helped going forward to the fall. There’s just not a lot to do with a filly over the summer so it worked out well that we could keep her going while maybe some of the others were in some down time.”

Confined burst on the hurdle scene in September 2008, when she ran off in a filly/mare maiden by 15 lengths at Shawan Downs. Fenwick braved the elements that day, most notably the rain that forced the cancellation of the card after just two races. She left wet and soggy – and convinced past frustrations as an owner were in the rearview mirror.

“Over the years I’ve had some tough times with a few horses. I had a filly die when she was a week old, a jumper colic and die at 3 after making one hurdle start and another that bowed early in his career; so I know how tough it can be,” she said. “The course at Shawan was a river that day from all the rain but she ran so beautifully when she could have easily not tried; she had her ears pricked and jumped fabulous. I was convinced right there that she was something special. She ran like a champion from the get-go.”

Sheppard bred his mare Maternity Leave to Mojave Moon and the mating produced Confined, a full-sister to Desert Vigil, whom Fenwick co-owned with Dempsey. One year Confined’s senior, Desert Vigil won a maiden claimer at Radnor in 2007 (and was claimed by Rusty Carrier). Sheppard knew early on that Confined would have family bragging rights.

“Desert Vigil was a useful horse, but on looks alone I always thought Confined had more quality,” Sheppard said. “So with her pedigree and being that my horses tend to improve over time, I felt like she had a license to improve into a nice filly as she got older. You can’t really say you think a horse will be a champion someday but she has always been a good jumper with a beautiful way of moving.”

Championship campaigns seldom go off without a hitch and Confined’s came about from simple math. Her win at Callaway gave her $53,000 on the year. Moon Dolly, confirmed for Palm Beach’s $25,000 filly/mare stakes on the last day of the season, sat with $38,600. With $15,000 going to the winner at Palm Beach, the title remained in play.

Sheppard weighed the pros and cons and decided to pass. After Moon Dolly ran third, Confined clinched the title and the word intuition was added to the superlatives on his Hall of Fame resume.

“I just thought it over and decided it wasn’t right to ship all the way down there after
such a long year; Confined’s never been a good shipper to begin with, so that’s a long way to go to be disappointed,” Sheppard said. “And we also felt like we didn’t want to push things too much after some tough races and such a big year. Moon Dolly is a really nice horse but there were some other good ones in the race as well so we just decided to take our chances and it worked out.”

Confined’s success built upon a friendship and working relationship that Fenwick forged with Sheppard almost two decades ago. She’s happy to be part of another good horse.

“I’ve got a long history with Jonathan and have seen the great horses he’s trained over the years, so it’s great to be able to share in something like this with him,” Fenwick said. “From the very beginning he thought she had tremendous class and ability. She has a great presence about her and is a big, spectacular-looking filly.”
Just ask Informed Decision and Forever Together.

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