February 13, 2016
Source: Blood-Horse (Written by: Claire Novak)
Reddam Racing’s Frank Conversation put together back-to-back victories in a big way Feb. 13 when he rallied to take the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate Fields.
The Quality Road colt became the first horse to complete the El Camino Real/California Derby double since Chocolate Candy in 2009 and just the fourth horse to do it overall (the others are Cause to Believe and Bwana Bull). He also earned his way onto the Road to the Kentucky Derby for trainer Doug O’Neill by picking up the lion’s share of points awarded on a 10-4-2-1 spread to the top four finishers. Frank Conversation currently ranks 14th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard; the No. 1 spot is held by his stablemate, 2-year-old champion male Nyquist (30 points), who is set to make his season debut Feb. 15 in the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park.
Wide throughout under jockey Mario Gutierrez from post 12 in a crowded field of 13, Frank Conversation tracked sixth behind the pace set by 35-1 shot Kelly With a Twist. The leader went a quarter in :23.73 and a half in :48.37 while Frank Conversation cruised along midpack. After three-quarters in 1:13.15, 14-1 shot Algenon ranged up from second to take the lead, but Frank Conversation mounted a big run and blew by him in early stretch.
“The last two races he has improved a lot, and I think he’ll keep improving,” Gutierrez said. “He’ll definitely stretch out because the competition was a little bit harder today, but he definitely kicked on and he never hesitated to keep pushing until the wire.”
Trainer Graham Motion saw Tusk put in a strong rally for second, while his other entrant, Kasseopia, closed to get third after a slow start. But Frank Conversation took home the money by three-quarters of a length, drawing clear through a 1:38.25 mile en route to a final time of 1:50.64 on the all-weather track.
“That was a big-time performance today,” O’Neill said. “It does look like synthetic or turf is his thing, but we’ll definitely try a big race on dirt soon. The race at Turfway Park (the grade III $500,000 Spiral Stakes on April 2) is something we’d look at first because it is on synthetic.
“Watching him train on dirt, it looks like he’s not only a synthetic and turf horse. His race at Los Alamitos (a fifth-place finish in the grade I Los Alamitos Futurity) wasn’t that bad. Obviously his style is to sit and pounce, but speed was doing well that day and we told Mario to go for the lead.”
Sent off as the 8-5 favorite in a field of 13, Frank Conversation returned $5.20, $3.40, and $2.80. Tusk brought $8 and $4.40 at odds of 11-1, while Kasseopia paid $3.80. Completing the order of finish were San Dimas, Diplodocus, Algenon, Mana Strike, Marqula, Oscar Dominguez, Kelly With a Twist, Touched by Autism, Giopress, and Go Long. Mr. Coker was scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by Marc Keller out of the Unusual Heat mare Rushen Heat, Frank Conversation was a $120,000 purchase by Dennis O’Neill from the Wavertree Sales consignment to the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March 2-year-olds in training sale. He also went through the ring as a $65,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale purchase in 2014, when purchased by Red Wings from the Bluewater Sales consignment. His record now stands at three wins and a third from six starts, for earnings of $230,450.