08/10/2013 8:42PM

Del Mar: Gomez makes triumphant return aboard Dice Flavor in La Jolla Handicap

Email
Benoit & Associates
Dive Flavor (No. 8) and Garrett Gomez rally to win Saturday's Grade 2 La Jolla Handicap by a half-length.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Go Go is back.

Jockey Garrett Gomez won the $151,000 La Jolla Handicap aboard Dice Flavor at Del Mar on Saturday, making a triumphant return to racing after undergoing treatment for alcoholism in late July.

Dice Flavor was Gomez’s second mount Saturday. He had not ridden since the closing day of the spring-summer meeting at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 14. Gomez was booked to ride July 17, Del Mar’s opening day, but took off his mounts that week while undergoing counseling.

Dice Flavor was Gomez’s first winner since June 6 and his first stakes winner since Clubhouse Ride won the Grade 2 Californian Stakes at Hollywood Park on June 2.

In the Grade 2 La Jolla, Dice Flavor ($19.80) was eighth with a furlong remaining and closed with a wide rally to finish a half-length in front of 8-1 Den’s Legacy, who led by 1 1/2 lengths in the stretch.

Gomez, 41, punctuated the victory by emphatically pumping his right arm in the air after Dice Flavor hit the wire.

“You don’t think about coming back in a graded stakes,” he said. “You just want to end up in the winner’s circle.”

Dice Flavor ran 1 1/16 miles on turf in 1:39.82. He was so far back that he did not look like a contender until the final sixteenth.

Through the first half-mile, Gomez had Dice Flavor well off a quick pace of 22.99 and 45.91 seconds set by Rosengold. Going into the turn, Gomez said he debated whether to swing wide, but he opted to stay in behind runners, hoping that space would develop near the stretch.

“I waited to move out at the five-sixteenths,” he said. “I thought if I went earlier, I’d be eight wide.”

Dice Flavor trailed by more than 4 1/2 lengths with a furlong remaining and took the lead in the final strides.

“I thought he’d give me a turn of foot, and he did,” Gomez said.

Pure Loyalty finished third. The first three finishers each were 8-1 in a competitive race. Dry Summer finished fourth, followed by Si Sage, Uno Dos Adios, Freakin Rocket, Greeley Awesome, and Rosengold. Freakin Rocket was the 5-2 favorite. He was second with a furlong remaining but faded late, finishing three lengths behind the winner.

Dice Flavor is a 3-year-old colt by Scat Daddy. Trained by Paddy Gallagher, Dice Flavor races for Oda Racing Stable and U.S. Equine.

Dice Flavor won the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in February, but he was eighth in the $2 million United Arab Emirates Derby at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai on March 30. Dice Flavor had a disappointing Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting, finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap on June 2 and third of four in the Grade 2 Swaps Stakes on July 4.

A winner of 3 of 9 starts and $274,500, Dice Flavor gave a career-best performance in the La Jolla, a win that is likely to lead to a start in the $300,000 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 1.