The Northern Californian route to the Triple Crown events tends to be "the road less traveled by” these days, at least for major contenders. In fact, the last time the winner of Bay Meadows’ El Camino Real Derby (gr. III), Northern California’s top event for 3-year-olds, placed in a Triple Crown event was back in 1996 when Cavonnier was beaten a nose by Grindstone in the 1999 renewal of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).
The previous year, El Camino Real Derby victor Jumron was a good fourth in the Derby, and if we continue to go back we find such El Camino Real winners as Tabasco Cat, who went on to take the 1994 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes (both gr. I); Casual Lies, second in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness Stakes in 1992; Snow Chief, hero of the 1986 renewal of the Preakness Stakes; and Tank’s Prospect, who annexed the Preakness the previous year. We should also mention 1998 El Camino Real Derby captor Event of the Year, who probably would have started favorite for the Kentucky Derby had he not been sidelined by injury.
Dice Flavor, who scored an impressive victory in this year’s El Camino Real Derby, faces at least one challenge that the previously mentioned classic stars did not: He has yet to start on dirt. He kicked off his career with a third and a fifth in turf sprints at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park, before closing out his 2-year-old campaign with a decisive tally going 8 1/2 furlongs on the grass at Hollywood Park. His only other start prior to the El Camino Real saw Dice Flavor finish a close third in a one-mile Santa Anita turf allowance test.
In contrast, Dice Flavor’s sire, Scat Daddy , raced only on dirt. The son of “world champion” 2-year-old Johannesburg was near the top of his generation at 2, winning three of five starts, including the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) and Sanford Stakes (gr. II), in which he defeated fellow Johannesburg son Teuflesberg (sire of champion sprinter Trinniberg in his first crop). Scat Daddy was also second to Circular Quay in the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I), and ended his first campaign with a fourth to runaway winner Street Sense in the Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (gr. I). A ring rusty-looking third in the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) first time out at 3, Scat Daddy rebounded to defeat Stormello and Nobiz Like Shobiz in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II). Scat Daddy cemented his status as a leading Derby prospect with a comfortable win in the Florida Derby (gr. I). He started third favorite for the 2007 “Run for the Roses,” but finished 18th as Street Sense defeated Hard Spun and Curlin . Subsequently, Scat Daddy was found to have suffered a tendon injury, and he was retired to stand at Ashford Stud, where his 2013 fee is $30,000.
The leading freshman sire of 2011, Scat Daddy is represented by seven first-crop stakes winners (five of them as juveniles), including Lady of Shamrock, whose successes include the American Oaks and Del Mar Oaks (both gr. IT); Daddy Long Legs , who took the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II) at 2 and the UAE Derby Sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II) at 3; Daddy Nose Best, successful in the Sunland Derby (gr. III) and last year’s El Camino Real Derby (gr. III); the Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) victor Shared Property; and Finale, who scored in the 2011 Summer Stakes Presented by TVG (Can-IIIT). His second crop already has produced four stakes winners, with Dice Flavor being joined by the Cincinnati Trophy victress Allanah as a 2013 black type winner.
The El Camino Real Derby weekend was remarkably productive for Dice Flavor’s dam Afleet Summer, as just a few hours prior to Dice Flavor’s triumph, her 5-year-old, Swift Warrior (by First Samurai so, like Dice Flavor, by a Storm Cat-line stallion) captured the Tampa Bay Stakes (gr. IIIT). This was a second graded win for Swift Warrior, who also owns victories in the John B. Connally Turf Cup Stakes (gr. IIIT), Win Stakes at Saratoga, and Turfway Park’s Rushaway Stakes. Afleet Summer is also dam of the stakes-winning filly Carolina Sky (by Sky Classic, a horse whose sire, Nijinsky II, has some notable pedigree similarities to Storm Bird, the sire of Storm Cat).
A daughter of Afleet, Afleet Summer is a half sister to the French listed scorer and group-placed runner Limelight. Her dam, the stakes-placed Lyphard mare Steal the Thunder, is a sister to Storm On the Loose, a talented turf performer who won a pair of graded stakes and took second in the Arlington Handicap (gr. IT). Steal the Thunder is also a half sister to the stakes-placed Stormeor (by Lyphard’s son Lypheor), herself dam of multiple stakes winner Second in Command and of Shrike (by Afleet), a close relative to Afleet Summer who took the Fred W. Hooper Handicap (gr. III). Dice Flavor’s third dam, That’s a Kennedy, is by Canadian Horse of the Year Kennedy Road out of the noted producer Classy Quillo. Dam of stakes winners Money By Orleans and Baraquillo, Classy Quillo has had a greater impact on the breed through her stakes-placed Nodouble daughter No Class. Dam of Canadian champions Sky Classic (also champion turf horse in the U.S.), Regal Classic, Grey Classic, and Classy ‘n Smart, as well as the grade I winner Always a Classic, No Class is ancestress of numerous other major performers, including twice leading sire Smart Strike; Dance Smartly, champion 3-year-old filly in the U.S. and a multiple champion in Canada; and other Canadian champions Hello Seattle and Dancethruthedawn.
Dice Flavor, who is inbred 5X3X3 to Mr. Prospector, follows graded scorers Handsome Mike and Daddy Nose Best as the third graded winner for Scat Daddy out of a Mr. Prospector-line mare. Rather intriguingly, Handsome Mike is out of a mare by Smart Strike who, as a son of Mr. Prospector, is from the same sire line and family as the dam of Dice Flavor. We can also note that Scat Daddy is a reverse Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector cross to Afleet Summer, while his dam is a parallel cross to that mare. Handsome Mike and Daddy Nose Best both captured stakes on dirt, but without ruling out Dice Flavor as a prospect for that surface, we’ll note that his pedigree includes a lot of turf performance close up, and so it would be no surprise if grass and all-weather turn out to be his ideal surfaces.