01/16/2016 9:07PM

Frank Conversation delivers in California Derby

Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography
Frank Conversation, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, wins the California Derby.

Frank Conversation ($7) got a dream stalking trip Saturday, one start after being involved in a hot pace duel in a Grade 1 stakes, and scored a powerful victory in the $100,105 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Mario Gutierrez settled Frank Conversation in third as Algenon and the favored Allaboutaction raced side by side through moderate fractions in the 1 1/16-mile race. Frank Conversation had little left after dueling with Toews On Ice for six furlongs in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in his previous start, but he had plenty left when Gutierrez steered him to the No. 3 path and asked for speed turning for home. The Quality Road colt had no trouble reeling in Algenon and Allaboutaction, who briefly put his head in front of the early pacesetter.

Frank Conversation continued strongly to the wire to win by what race-caller Frank Mirahmadi called “2 1/2 deceiving lengths.” The winning time was 1:43.37.

Marqula finished well to be second but never appeared a challenge to the winner. Algenon re-rallied for third, two lengths farther back, edging Allaboutaction by half a length while keeping his streak of never finishing off the board in eight starts intact. Mana Strike, the winner of the Gold Rush, finished last in the field of six.

Allaboutaction’s fourth-place finish snapped a four-race California Derby winning streak for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won with Cross the Line last year, Exit Stage Left in 2014, Zeewat in 2013, and Russian Greek in 2012.

“The speed took off, and I was able to relax him and sit behind the speed,” said Gutierrez. “It was a good trip for him. Last time [in the Los Alamitos Futurity], he was a little rank. Today, he was more calm, and it was good for us.”

Frank Conversation, a $120,000 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. purchase last March, earned $60,000 as he won his first stakes. He previously had run third in the Grade 3 Cecil B. DeMille on turf at Del Mar. He now has earned $110,450, with two wins in five starts. He is owned by Paul and Zillah Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, the winning connections along with Gutierrez of 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another.

O’Neill’s assistant, Leandro Mora, said it was “even-money” that the colt would return to Golden Gate Fields for the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 13.