The connections of unbeaten champion and 2016 Kentucky Derby (G1) points leader Nyquist have another contender on their hands – Frank Conversation, who got on the scoreboard by capturing Saturday’s $200,840 El Camino Real Derby (G3) at Golden Gate Fields.
Owned by Reddam Racing, trained by Doug O’Neill, and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, Frank Conversation was sent off as the 8-5 favorite after his victory in the January 16 California Derby over the same track. The son of Quality Road bided his time a few lengths behind the pacesetter, who posted fractions of :23.73, :48.37 and 1:13.15. Frank Conversation advanced on the far turn and took command down the stretch, finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.64 and paying $5.20 to win.
The respective second and third, Tusk and Kasseopia, are stablemates from the barn of trainer Graham Motion. Tusk was overlooked at 11-1, while Kasseopia, the 2-1 second choice, hurt his own cause by getting away to a very slow start. Combined with his ground loss as he was hung out wide, Kasseopia endured a tough day, and in the circumstances he did well to grab third.
Frank Conversation earned 10 points toward the Kentucky Derby, Tusk got 4 points, Kasseopia added 2 (and now has a total of 6), and San Dimas notched 1 point.
Viewing this race from its impact on the Kentucky Derby betting picture, note that the El Camino Real Derby is contested over a synthetic Tapeta surface, unlike the dirt at Churchill Downs. Indeed, the top four from this race all have something to prove on dirt. Frank Conversation was unplaced in his two dirt races last year in Southern California, and Tusk, Kasseopia (a British import) and San Dimas have yet to try it. Those who want to pursue more Derby points on a synthetic surface have one remaining option: the April 2 Spiral (G3) on the Polytrack at Turfway.
Photo courtesy of Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography.