Dice Flavor burst between opponents in midstretch and drew off to a convincing 3 3/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. After racing exclusively on turf in his first four starts, the Paddy Gallagher-trained colt made his stakes debut a winning one while switching to the Tapeta track and established himself as a Kentucky Derby prospect, earning 10 points in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system, but he will need to be a late nominee to the Triple Crown by the March 23 deadline.
Wildcat Moon broke on top from the rail but was quickly passed by Grade 3 Sham third-placer Maldonado, who sprinted to the fore and opened up by a couple of lengths as he completed a fast opening quarter-mile in :23. Wildcat Moon chased the pace in second and was followed by Counting Days and Carving during the early stages, with Dice Flavor rating well off the pace in seventh after a half-mile in :47 1/5.
Maldonado continued to show the way around the far turn, ripping through six furlongs in 1:11 3/5, but a host of challengers started to bunch up behind the tiring pacesetter as they reached the top of the stretch. Dice Flavor closed rapidly while cornering to reach contention, but he entered the stretch drive with nowhere to run behind a wall of horses. After steadying slightly, Dice Flavor altered course toward the outside for a seam between rivals and quickly accelerated to the front.
He dominated the final furlong with jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., finishing 1 1/8 miles in 1:51 2/5.
Off as the 9-1 fourth choice in the nine-horse field, Dice Flavor paid $21, $10.80 and $9.20. Nina's Dragon rallied wide into the stretch and wound up second at 13-1, nearly a length better than the 25-1 Counting Days in third. It was another 2 1/4 lengths back to Carving, who was followed by Zeewat, Wildcat Moon, North Pacific, Rush In and 2-1 favorite Mandando.
Third versus allowance/optional claiming foes in his last start at Santa Anita, Dice Flavor broke his maiden two starts previously at Hollywood Park on December 16. The chestnut colt is a son of Scat Daddy, who also sired 2012 El Camino Real Derby winner Daddy Nose Best, and Dice Flavor is out of the Afleet mare Afleet Summer, making him a half-brother to multiple Grade 3 hero Swift Warrior, winner of Saturday's Grade 3 Tampa Bay; and multiple stakes victress Carolina Sky. His female family also includes multiple Grade 1 hero and Canadian champion Sky Classic; Canadian classic winners Sharp-Eyed Quillo and Regal Classic; and Canadian champion Classy 'n Smart.
Dice Flavor was bred in Kentucky by Paget Bloodstock, Nearctic Bloodstock and Carhue Investments, and he initially sold for $80,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale before being purchased for $100,000 at last year's Barretts May two-year-old sale. With Saturday's $120,000 payday, Dice Flavor has now earned $160,500 from a 5-2-0-2 career line.