Trainer Paddy Gallagher gambled Saturday that his little-known colt would like a visit to Northern California. At Albany's Golden Gate Fields, the transplanted Irishman got lucky as Dice Flavor rolled to an upset victory in the $200,000 El Camino Real Derby.
With jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. aboard, Dice Flavor split a five-horse scrum at the head of the stretch to blast home in impressive style. Returning $21 for a $2 wager, he won $120,000 and quadrupled his lifetime bankroll to $160,500.
"It was the first time shipping out of Santa Anita and running over the synthetic surface," Valdivia said. "When I called on him, he surprised me how quickly he got to the leaders."
Dice Flavor, who ran all his previous races on turf, also earned 10 points toward a possible start in the Kentucky Derby, but he was not nominated to the Triple Crown. Owners Oda Racing Stable and U.S. Equine have until March 23 to supplement him to the field for $6,000.
Gaining his first stakes win in his first start on a synthetic track, the chestnut colt finished 3 3/4 lengths in front of Nina's Dragon with Counting Days almost a length back in third. Completing the order of finish were Carving, Zeewat, Wildcat Moon, North Pacific, Rush In and Manando, the 2-1 favorite.
Leading by as much as three lengths down the backstretch, Manando set a lively pace while tracked by Wildcat Moon and Counting Days. Meanwhile, Dice Flavor loped along next-to-last in the field of nine.
Turning for home, Manando tired badly, setting up a wide-open finish. With five horses forming a line across the track, Valdivia threaded the fast-closing Dice Flavor through a narrow gap and squirted away to an easy win in 1 minute, 51.45 seconds for the 1 1/8-mile stakes.
"I've felt that he had the physical talent, but mentally he's not all there," Valdivia said. "But today, he impressed me because if he didn't accelerate right when that hole opened, he would have been stuck."
The fourth consecutive shipper to win the El Camino Real, Kentucky-bred Dice Flavor gave sire Scat Daddy back-to-back wins in Northern California's major Triple Crown prep. Daddy Nose Best, who won the 2012 El Camino Real, finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby.