O’Neill “Very Excited” About Gotham Contender So Conflated

O’Neill “Very Excited” About Gotham Contender So Conflated

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NYRA Press Release:¬†Reddam Racing’s California Derby winner So Conflated has settled nicely into his temporary digs at Aqueduct Racetrack following his Tuesday arrival for the Grade 3, $300,000 Gotham on Saturday, said trainer Doug O’Neill.

So Conflated, 8-1 on the morning line and the only other previous stakes winner in this year’s Gotham field aside from two-time Grade 3 winner El Areeb, will get another chance to step up in class following his three-quarter-length victory in the California Derby over Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic Tapeta surface on January 21.

Mario Gutierrez, who has been aboard the ridgling in all three of his career starts, has the return call on So Conflated, who was entered in the Risen Star February 25 at Fair Grounds but was scratched after drawing the outside post in a field of 14.

The gray son of Eskendereya has two dirt starts to his credit, both in southern California, where he ran behind a pair of well-regarded colts from the Hall of Fame barn of Bob Baffert. He was third to eventual Grade 3 Sham runner-up American Anthem in his December 3 debut at Del Mar and came back in maiden special weight three weeks later, crossing the wire second behind another Baffert trainee, Dabster, a $1 million 2-year-old-in-training purchase, in a blanket finish before being elevated to first after the winner was disqualified for interference.

“He’s just mentally very tough, very competitive,” O’Neill said of So Conflated, speaking by phone Thursday morning. “He’s been very solid. We’re very excited about him. For him to run third in his debut behind American Anthem, who is one of Team Baffert’s top Derby hopefuls, this guy figured to get better with more distance.

“In the Cal Derby, Mario rode him with a lot of confidence and he displayed his ability down the lane there,” he noted. “He really stretched out and looked great. The [Tapeta] is similar to turf, it takes a patient horse to do what he did, so I’m using it as a positive. I think it really showed his mental maturity to win that race the way he did. And the fact that he’s already won on the dirt is a vote of confidence too. I think it’s a good way to come into this race. It sounds like it’s chilly and windy there, but hopefully he’s a windy city horse.”

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