02/20/2013 12:59PM

Golden Gate: El Camino Real as graveyard for Southern California front-runners continues with Manando

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Manando set a reasonable pace in the El Camino Real Derby, but faded to last.

What has become an interesting trend continued at Golden Gate Fields in the Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby last Saturday.

A Southern California front-runner set what seemed to be a comfortable pace but then ran into a brick wall at the top of the stretch.

Manando, the 2-1 favorite from the Bob Baffert barn, set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile race with fractions of 23.10 seconds, 47.34, and 1:11.67 and finished dead last.

Meanwhile Dice Flavor, whose first four starts had come on the turf, was content to sit back, made a quick move in the stretch to split rivals, and pulled away, defeating Nina’s Dragon by 3 3/4 lengths in an impressive victory.

Manando joins a list of recent unsuccessful Southern California-based El Camino Real pacesetters that includes Handsome Mike (2012), Ranger Heartley (2010), and Aquicksting (2009).

For whatever reason, it’s difficult to go wire to wire going a route on the Golden Gate Tapeta surface, whether it’s in the El Camino Real or an everyday overnight race.

For whatever reason, it’s difficult to go wire to wire going a route on the Golden Gate Tapeta surface, whether it’s in the El Camino Real or an everyday overnight race. This meet, 18 percent of the one-mile races and 14 percent of the 1 1/16 mile races have been won wire to wire.

None of the top three from the race – Dice Flavor, runner-up Nina’s Dragon, and third-place finisher Counting Days – is nominated to the Triple Crown. So they were not credited with qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby. Fourth-place finisher Carving did earn one point.

Dice Flavor and Nina’s Dragon might be made late nominees to the Triple Crown for $6,000, said their respective trainers, Paddy Gallagher and Lloyd Mason. If they do nominate, the points would be applied retroactively.

The El Camino Real was the first race on the main track for Dice Flavor, who came into the race with just a maiden win.

Winning rider Jose Valdivia Jr. said he believes Dice Flavor “can really progress.”

“I’ve felt that he had the physical talent, but mentally he wasn’t all there,” said Valdivia, who has ridden Dice Flavor in all five of his races.

The colt’s quick acceleration to pop through the hole in the stretch convinced Valdivia the colt is improving at the right time.

“The next question is where do we go from here, but it’s a good question to have to ask,” Valdivia said.

That’s a question Gallagher is pondering as well.

“Do we want to go next on dirt, grass, or synthetic?” he asked. “He gets the distance, but I don’t know if we want him nominated” to the Derby.

Gallagher said one reason the El Camino was chosen for Dice Flavor’s main-track debut was because “going from turf to synthetic is easier than turf to dirt.”

Mason was thrilled by the effort of Nina’s Dragon’s, who was coming off a third-place finish in a one-mile optional claimer here. Mason said he especially pleased to have a nice 3-year-old for the longtime owner-breeder David Currie.

“He’s going to be a good one, and we’ll probably have to do some traveling,” he said. “Ones like this don’t come around very often.”

John Cossette More than 1 year ago
Does ANYONE edit the copy for this publication? Seriously?
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
And nobody realized that Mr. Bafferts other horse, Carving was coming late because of these ridiculous fractions? Carving is one of the very first promising 2 year olds he got his mitts on and I will have to be proven different that he didn't compromise the race to set up Carving. There is NO way a trainer tells a jockey to explode to a lead like that! HELLO!!