02/16/2013 10:40PM

Golden Gate Fields: Patient ride by Valdivia enables Dice Flavor to upset El Camino Real Derby

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Marcel Langevin/Vasser Photography
Dice Flavor, making his first start on the main track after four races on turf, upsets the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby under jockey Jose Valdivia.

ALBANY, Calif. -- Jose Valdivia Jr. was quite content to sit back as Manando set a brisk pace in the 32nd running of the  Grade 3, $200,000 El Camino Real Derby on Saturday at Golden Gate Fields.

And when the real running began in the 1 1/8-mile race, Dice Flavor made a strong move and outraced Nina's Dragon to the wire in a victory that earned him 10 points in the 36-race Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Dice Flavor ($21), a son of Scat Daddy, who also sired last year's El Camino Real Derby winner Daddy Nose Best, had run his first four starts on the turf. Earlier in the day at Tampa Bay Downs, Dice Flavor's half-brother, Swift Warrior, won the $150,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf for their dam Afleet Summer.

While Manando gunned through fractions of 23.10 and 47.34 seconds, Valdivia was far back aboard Dice Flavor, sitting eighth, 10 lengths back after the opening quarter and seventh, 9 1/2 lengths behind after the half.

"I've been watching races here lately and even when horses seem to be going easy up front, they get caught," said Valdivia

The jockey added that he felt he was in a good spot following Zeewat, the 5-2 third choice under Russell Baze, and Carving, Manando's  Bob Baffert-trained stablemate.

"At the five-eighths pole, it seemed some riders were beginning to ask their horses. My horse was pretty comfortable,” Valdivia said.

Manando was racing unchallenged to the quarter pole as Wildcat Moon was content to let him go early.

The field began to logjam into the stretch as Manando faded all the way to last as the 2-1 favorite. Valdivia had to make a quick move aboard the Patrick Gallagher-trained Dice Flavor to split third-place finisher Counting Days and eventual second-place finisher Nina's Dragon.

"If he hesitated behind [Counting Days], he gets blocked," said Valdivia. "If he doesn't get through, the race is over, but he responded immediately."

As he split rivals, Dice Flavor stuck his head in front and was not pushed through the stretch as he pulled clear, winning the race by 3 3/4 lengths in 1:51.45.

Nina's Dragon at 13-1 was second, three-quarters of a length in front of 25-1 Counting Days.

Dice Flavor earned $120,000 for owner Nobuo Oda, improving his bankroll to $190,500.