El Camino Real Derby Produces Non-TC Trifecta
By Dick Downey
The favorites all lost, and longshots ruled the day in the Grade III El Camino Real Derby, a points race for the Kentucky Derby in which none of the top three finishers was nominated to the Triple Crown.
Dice Flavor, a 20-1 morning line trained by Paddy Gallagher and ridden by Jose Valdivia, Jr., burst through a pack of horses on the synthetic Tapeta surface at Golden Gate Fields to win by daylight. He was sent off at 8-1 post time odds. Nina's Dragon, 13-1, finished second, while Counting Days finished third at 25-1.
Carving, who was fourth at 5-2 odds, is a Triple Crown nominee. The race was worth Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 10, four, two and one, respectively.
Horses not nominated to the Triple Crown do not appear on the leader board for Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The deadline for late nominations to the 2013 Triple Crown is March 23, 2013. If any of the top three finishers are made eligible at that time by payment of the $6,000 fee, their points will be awarded retroactively, just as graded stakes earnings were in the previous eligibility system.
Bob Baffert's Manando went from first to worst after he set initial, uncontested fractions of :23.10, :47.34 and 1:11.67. As the field rounded the second turn, Manando's lead began to shorten as Wildcat Moon, who'd been stalking in second, came up on him. Suddenly, in upper stretch, the nine runners compacted, bumping ensued, and Manando was squeezed on the rail with nothing left. Dice Flavor emerged in command around the furlong marker and galloped off to an easy victory.
The winning margin was 3 3/4 lengths. Nina's Dragon was in turn three parts of a length ahead of Counting Days, and Carving, at 5-2 odds, was beaten a total of 6 3/4 lengths. They were followed across the finish line by Zeewat (the post-time second choice at 5-2), Wildcat Moon, North Pacific, Rush In and Manando, the 2-1 post-time favorite beaten 24 1/2 lengths.
The 1 1/8-mile El Camino Real Derby was timed in 1:51.45. Dice Flavor returned $21.00 to win, $10.80 to place and $9.20 to show. The $2 exacta paid only $168.10, but the $1 trifecta and $1 superfecta returned $1,068.90 and $7,509.20.
Dice Flavor has never raced on dirt, with his four prior career starts coming on turf at Santa Anita and Betfair Hollywood Park. He broke his maiden at the latter track two starts ago in his first effort at two turns. Today's win was his stakes debut. Most recently, he finished third after a troubled trip in a one-mile, $80,000 allowance optional claiming race at Santa Anita.
A son of Scat Daddy, Dice Flavor is out of the Afleet mare Afleet Summer. He's owned by Oda Racing Stable or Us Equine and was bred in Kentucky by Paget Bloodstock, Nearctic Bloodstock & Carhue Investments.
Jose Valdivia, Jr.: "He was moving easily all the way. He made up a lot of ground and made the lead easily. I've felt that he had the physical talent, but mentally he's not all there. But today he impressed me because if he didn't accelerate right when that hole opened, he would have been stuck."