This year's running of the Grade I Vessels Maturity will serve as a reunion of sorts for two different horses in the field. Both the battle-tested Go Love A Lark Go and Juan Gomez's talented six-year-old Dicey Dee will be making their second consecutive appearance in this prestigious race. Contested on Friday, June 20th, the Vessels Maturity boasts a strong purse of $149,500 and carries a berth to the rich $1,000,000 Champion of Champions, the top race in the country for older horses.
In 2007, Dicey Dee had a grueling ten-race campaign, racing against first-class stakes company from early February all the way through late December. Throughout the year, he competed in seven stakes races, squaring off with highly regarded runners like Volcom, Like Frankie And Me, Spike It And Fly, and Dutch Schultz. By the end of the year, he was in need of a vacation. Fresh off a five-week layoff, Dicey Dee was victorious in his first start of his six-year-old year, scoring by three-quarters of a length in his trial to the Grade I Los Alamitos Winter Championship. Next out, he ran a game third-place finish in the finals behind seven-time winner A Stoli Mate and millionaire No Secrets Here.
Most recently, Dicey Dee closed ground throughout in his trial to the Vessels Maturity, finishing a close third behind Frankie Shoots and Keep The Sign. His time of 19.495 seconds was good enough for the third-fastest clocking of the night. "We actually considered scratching the horse before the race," said 24-year-old Fabian Gomez, Juan's son and the regular caretaker of Dicey Dee. "The horseshoer shaved his hooves really thin a few days before the race and it was causing him a lot of pain. Luckily enough, he was able to design a special shoe for Dicey Dee in the trials. It was an orthopedic shoe that was designed to take some of the pressure off his feet."
His connections thought that would do the trick. "It seemed to be helping him, but then he lost the shoe about 150 yards into the race," said Gomez. "When he ran as well as he did after throwing his shoe, we were really impressed." Ironically, Dicey Dee did his best running that night in the later part of the race while only wearing three horseshoes. The brown son of Pritzi Dash made up ground throughout, finishing a close third, only beaten by a head.
Dicey Dee has come quite a long was over the years. After debuting at Los Alamitos in 2004, he raced primarily on the fair circuit at three. A winner of a trio of minor stakes races in Northern California that year, his connections soon began eyeing some of the more competitive races at Los Alamitos. In 2007, they made good on that commitment, campaigning Dicey Dee in the Los Alamitos Winter Championship, the Kaweah Bar Handicap, the California Breeders' Sprint, the Vessels Maturity, and the First Down Dash Handicap.
"The first time that he ran after we bought him, he nearly broke the track record at 300 yards," added Fabian of the horse they purchased privately from Adan Farias in December of 2006. "He won a $50,000 claiming race that month by almost a length and ran a 102 speed index." His time of 15.12 seconds at the 300-yard distance is only .04 seconds off of the current track record shared by Runnin Ramped and Fat Royality. "I think Adan sort regretted it right after that race," Fabian said with a laugh. "There aren't any bad feelings though. He's happy to see the horse doing so well."
For Juan and Fabian, racing has been their passion for many years. "My dad has always been involved in horse racing," commented Fabian. "He used to be a jockey in Mexico, riding as early as eight years old. We've had a number of horses over the years, but Dicey Dee is definitely our best one yet. We all thought he ran second in the Winter Championship earlier this year. He looked so good that night. I can't wait to come back to Los Alamitos and watch him run again in the finals. It's been a great year for him so far."