11/04/2016 8:08PM

Frank Conversation scores upset in Twilight Derby

Susie Raisher
Frank Conversation (No. 2), ridden by Mario Gutierrez, wins the Twilight Derby by half a length Friday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Frank Conversation scored a dramatic win at 36-1 in Friday’s $201,725 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita, the final race on the 10-race Breeders’ Cup program. The person most surprised by the upset may have been trainer Doug O’Neill.

“I thought for him to win would be a stretch,” O’Neill said.

Frank Conversation ($75.80) closed from eighth in the final quarter-mile to win by a half-length over 7-2 Free Rose. Blackjackcat finished third. Free Rose and Blackjackcat were part of a quick pace and stayed on well in the final furlong.

The Grade 2 Twilight Derby was the first stakes win on turf for Frank Conversation, who races for Paul and Zillah Reddam. O’Neill paid tribute to jockey Mario Gutierrez for setting up Frank Conversation to rally wide.

“He got him to settle in a perfect spot, and he responded well,” O’Neill said. “Credit to Mario.”

Frank Conversation ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:46.81.

Free Rose, the winner of the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap and Grade 2 Del Mar Derby during the summer, set early fractions of 22.54 seconds for a quarter-mile and 45.88 for a half. Free Rose was unable to shake clear of Blackjackcat, the two racing within a half-length of each other throughout.

Oscar Nominated, the 2-1 favorite, finished fourth. Oscar Nominated is a full brother to Oscar Performance, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf earlier in the day.

Diplodocus was fifth, followed by Monster Bea, Path of David, Mr. Roary, Gold Rush Dancer, and Dressed in Hermes, who was eased.

Frank Conversation has had an eventful year. The colt won two stakes on the all-weather track at Golden Gate Fields last winter – the California Derby and Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby – before finishing last of seven in the $2 million UAE Derby on the Dubai World Cup program in March.

Frank Conversation was 13th in the Grade 2 American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs on May 7 before being rested during the summer. In his comeback, Frank Conversation finished last of 10 in the Grade 2 City of Hope Mile on Oct. 8 after being part of a torrid early pace.

Friday’s race was a reversal of that performance and may lead to a start in the $300,000 Hollywood Derby at 1 1/8 miles on turf at Del Mar on Dec. 3.