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From last in a Classic Mile to ‘fat as a whale’, Pan Sutong’s nanny horse returns to Group One grade

Despite struggling in Hong Kong as Gold Win, Dice Roll could still be the first galloper from the 2019 four-year-old series opener to salute at the top level

A full 964 days since finishing last in the 2019 Classic Mile at Sha Tin, a horse that doesn’t even compete under the same name any more will this weekend be looking to become the first subsequent Group One winner from that race.

While superstars like Gold-Fun, Able Friend, Werther, Beauty Generation, Exultant and Golden Sixty have gone onto Group One glory after lining up in the traditional four-year-old series opener, the 2019 Classic Mile crop is yet to fire a shot at the top level.

Furore and Ka Ying Star have snared Group wins and it’s not impossible the former – who won the 2019 Classic Mile before going on to snare the Derby – pinches a big one this season after three placings at the top level.

But the galloper who finished 23 and three-quarter lengths behind him when named Gold Win could beat him to it in the Group One Rupert Clarke Stakes (1,400m) at Caulfield on Saturday.

Now called Dice Roll, the name the son of Showcasing raced under in France before being bought by Pan Sutong and imported to Hong Kong, the seven-year-old is rated a $26 outsider as he looks to scale the loftiest heights of his remarkable journey.

After four wins from seven starts in France, including a Group Three success at 1,400m and third in the Group One Poule d’Essai des Poulains (1,600m) for three-year-old colts, Dice Roll struggled in 11 starts under the tutelage of legendary trainer Tony Cruz in Hong Kong.

Handed a rating of 92 on arrival at Sha Tin, Dice Roll started at triple-figure odds in four of his first six runs – including $166 in the Classic Mile – and never fully acclimatised to Hong Kong life.

While he did produce a couple of competitive efforts in Class Two, the galloper finished 12th or worse in his final four runs of a Hong Kong career that ended in Class Three when Pan decided to retire him and put him out to pasture at his Goldin Farms property in South Australia.

Retirement didn’t last too long, with current trainer Nick Ryan – who did a stint as a jockey in Hong Kong during the 2005-06 season – jumping at the chance to bring Dice Roll back into work.

“For whatever reason he didn’t settle into Hong Kong and he went woefully so the boss sent him home to Goldin Farms, where he was literally running around the paddock as a nanny for the yearlings and babies,” Ryan told the Post.

“My stepfather Jeff Gordon is Goldin Farms’ racing manager and he knew the horse was in the paddock so he put it to the boss that we bring him out of retirement and see what I could do with him.

“He was as fat as a whale but I think that time in the paddock did him the world of good physically and mentally. Early on he impressed me, he had a beautiful action.”

There was no stopping Dice Roll when he made it back to the racetrack earlier this year, winning three on the bounce as he worked his way through the grades.

Dice Roll was given a freshen-up after a third and a fourth in July, with his assignment on Saturday his first at Group level since the Prix du Jockey Club – the French Derby – in June 2018.

“His first prep with me was very, very good obviously stringing those three wins together,” Ryan said. “He’s got the ability and he’s drawn perfectly with 52kg (114 pounds) on his back so hopefully he gets a bit of luck in running and I’m sure he’ll produce.”

Dice Roll has been within a neck of Group One victory before but many of those who saw him race in Hong Kong would have walked away fairly certain that would never be repeated, however racing has a funny way of proving people wrong.

“Anything could happen on Saturday,” Ryan said.

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