01/21/2017 8:37PM

So Conflated wins slowly run California Derby

Shane Micheli/Vassar Photography
So Conflated, ridden by Mario Gutierrez, wins the California Derby by three-quarters of a length Saturday.

ALBANY, Calif. – History repeated itself in Saturday's $100,450 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields, where So Conflated ($8.20) gave jockey Mario Gutierrez, trainer Doug O'Neill, and owner Paul Reddam’s Reddam Racing LLC their second straight victory in the race.

While last year's race was fairly routine, with Frank Conversation getting a nice stalking trip and beating the locally raced Marquila by 2 1/2 lengths, Gutierrez didn't have the easiest of trips with So Conflated, who was making only his third start.

So Conflated was sitting fourth behind the favored Vending Machine, who took the lead in the paceless race and was challenged by So Conflated's stablemate Secret House. Fractions were even through the first six furlongs, with Vending Machine actually running a faster third quarter than second quarter.

"From the three-eighths pole to the quarter, I was a little worried," said Gutierrez. "No one was running, and we were just staying in place."

Things picked up as the field turned for home when the locally based More Power to Him got first run while wide, running past So Conflated and then the other leaders and taking the lead in the stretch as the two leaders quickly faded.

Gutierrez got room, and So Conflated came running.

"When he got in the clear, he was all business," he said.

More Power to Him made So Conflated work but wasn't quite good enough, losing the 1 1/16-mile race by three-quarters of a length. The winning time was 1:44.71, more than a second slower than Frank Conversation's time last year.

More Power to Him did turn the tables on Colonel Samsen, who beat him in the Gold Rush but was third, another 1 1/4 lengths back, on Saturday.

"The horse outside him was better," said More Power to Him's jockey, Alejandro Gomez.

O'Neill's assistant, Leandro Mora, said the $70,000 Eskendereya ridgling took a while to develop. He made his first start Dec. 3 and won his second start on a disqualification Dec. 26.

"We're very happy he's doing the right things now," said Mora. "He's going up and up and up. This horse we'll keep pointing to the derbies."

Mora said O'Neill would make a decision later on about So Conflated's next start, but Frank Conversation also won the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby last year.

So Conflated earned $60,000 for his victory and has earned $98,640.