Network Cashes Derby Prep As Dice Flavor runs away with El Camino Real Derby

Network Cashes Derby Prep As Dice Flavor runs away with El Camino Real Derby

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.

Funnys Approval upsets Barbara Fritchie at 21-1

Despite capturing her last three races, including two in the slop, by easy margins, the betting public sent Bobby Rankin's homebred Funnys Approval off at 21-1 in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Barbara Fritchie Handicap but the chestnut miss ran like a favorite when holding off the runs of 6-5 choice My Wandy's Girl and Withgreatpleasure to take the seven-furlong contest by three parts of a length.

Jockey Juan Vargas had ridden Funnys Approval in all but two of her previous seven races, and was in the saddle when the daughter of Outrageouslyfunny broke from the Laurel Park gate in the muddy Barbara Fritchie. The duo immediately took after Celtic Chant, who had bounded out to the lead, and scooted up the inside of that filly to take command through splits of :23, :46 2/5 and 1:11 4/5.

Nearing the turn, Celtic Chant backed up as My Wandy's Girl slipped through on the inside and Onepointhreekarats ranged up on the outside of Funnys Approval. For a moment, My Wandy's Girl appeared ready to take over and pull away, but Funnys Approval battled back and held that rival to finish seven furlongs in 1:25 1/5.

"I was waiting for somebody to be coming," Vargas said. "The filly broke good. I was waiting for someone to pressure us but by the half-mile pole I could relax a little. Turning for home I did feel the horse to our inside but she had another gear to the wire."

The win was the first graded score for Vargas, who relocated to the United States from Peru in 2010 and rides regularly at Mountaineer Park, Turfway Park and Presque Isle Downs.

Funnys Approval rewarded her faithful, but few, backers with payouts of $45.80, $12.80 and $5.40. My Wandy's Girl was 1 3/4 lengths up Withgreatpleasure on the wire, while Nicole H completed the top four under the line. Next came Ms. Cruisen', Morrow Cove, Onepointhreekarats and Celtic Chant. Dance to Bristol and Bold Affair were both scratched.

"The winner had an easy lead. Nobody really went after her," said Irad Ortiz Jr., who was aboard My Wandy's Girl. "I saw the three horse (Onepointhreekarats) move on the outside, then decided to wait a little to make one run. My horse picked it up pretty good but couldn't catch the winner."

"She ran her butt off," said Travis Dunkelberger, who rode Withgreatpleasure. "We were in a good spot but the top two finishers never came back to us."
Funnys Approval dropped her first four starts while running on synthetic tracks at Turfway Park and Presque Isle Downs, and showed a definite preference for conventional dirt tracks when breaking her maiden by 5 1/2 lengths last October in her first try at Mountaineer Park. The four-year-old lass followed that with a 6 1/2-length romp against winners in an allowance, then wired another allowance by 4 1/2 lengths prior to this one.

Funnys Approval's latter two races came over sloppy, sealed surfaces, so trainer Jose Lopez was all smiles when the forecast called for rain on Saturday.
"When I saw the forecast I was happy about it. I was doing the rain dance," Lopez laughed. "I've only won one other stake. My second is in a Grade 2. That's absolutely unbelievable."

The Barbara Fritchie was the Kentucky-bred Funnys Approval's stakes bow and improved her record to 8-4-0-2, $196,379.

"I always knew she was good enough to make good races," Lopez said. "She won three races in a row and we were waiting for races. I came last week and I ran one here and I looked at the stake and said 'Let's run a shot, you got to be in it to win it.' Sunday she breezed very easily, a :47, she got a ton of horse left, came back like a million dollars.

"I really enjoy it here," added Lopez, who is currently stabled at Turfway Park (winter) and Thistledown (summer) but indicated he would be bringing a string to Maryland by the end of the year. "Everybody treats me very well and I should have a stable of horses that will fit in this part of the country."

Funnys Approval is the first stakes winner out of the Cherokee Run mare Cherokee Approval. Her third dam is the multiple stakes-placed Cheerily, who would foal track record setter and multiple stakes hero Canadian Silver as well as Grade 2-placed dual stakes victor Cheery Knight, who placed in the 1993 editions of the Queen's Plate and Prince of Wales.



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