Diodoro Making Most of First Oaklawn Meet

Trainer Robertino Diodoro has made a big splash in his first season at Oaklawn, and he’s already looking ahead to 2016.

“I love it here,” Diodoro said after training hours Friday morning. “It’s a good atmosphere. The people have been good. I’d like to bring a few more next year.”

Diodoro ranks just outside the top 10 in the standings, but his stable (roughly 13 horses) has a gaudy 7-2-4 record from just 20 starts. His horses have earned $237,612. His stable is headlined by unbeaten Subtle Indian, who is entered in Saturday’s $100,000 Gazebo Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters, and Indian Brava, an unbeaten 3-year-old filly.

The trainer said Indian Brava, a daughter of Bernardini, is pointing for the $100,000 Instant Racing Stakes April 11. He said he’s anxious to stretch out Indian Brava, but wants to sprint her once more in the six-furlong Instant Racing.

Diodoro was the country’s fifth-winningest trainer last year (243) and topped the standings at Canterbury in Minnesota. In addition to Oaklawn, Diodoro has approximately 80 horses at Turf Paradise in Phoenix and a smaller division at Santa Anita in Southern California.

Diodoro lives in Phoenix, but said he has made four trips to Oaklawn this season to check on his string, which is overseen by Rob Atras.

“My home is Phoenix during the winter time, but I would like to spend a little more time here myself next year and bring a few more horses,” Diodoro said. “I’d definitely like to bring 30.”

Subtle Indian and Indian Brava are both owned by Mercedes Stable, which has also campaigned, among others, multiple Grade 1 winner Rock Hard Ten.
 
All in The Family

When Treasure Box crawled up the rail to break her maiden last Friday, she became the fourth daughter of Ornate to win a race in Hot Springs. Like half-sisters High Heels, French Kiss and On Fire Baby – all Oaklawn stakes winners – Treasure Box won for the familiar team of owner/breeder Anita Cauley, trainer Gary “Red Dog” Hartlage and jockey Joe Johnson.

“She ran a monster race,” Hartlage said.

Treasure Box, a 3-year-old daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, broke slowly in her career debut and was last by nearly 11 lengths after a quarter-mile of the 1 1/16-mile maiden-allowance event. She was still last of 12 after a half-mile, but began to pass horses along the inside on the second turn and continued her rail-skimming rally through the stretch to catch The Strip approaching the wire to win by a half-length.

Cauley traveled from her Louisville, Ky., home to watch the race with close friend Marie McDonald.

“That wasn’t the plan to be that far back,” Cauley said. “We were screaming, ‘I think she can be third. I think she can be third.’ We screamed so much, people were like, ‘What is going on with these people? Something’s wrong.’ ”

Treasure Box, Cauley said, showed the most promise of her three siblings as unstarted 2-year-olds last spring, but minor setbacks delayed her racing career. The filly also needed time to grow into her body, Cauley said.

“She’s kind of going through this growing kind of spurt, and she would be on and off,” Cauley said. “She had a shin. We just thought there was absolutely no need to rush her, so we just gave her the time we thought she needed. It’s shocking to me how much taller she’s gotten from when she came in as a baby until now.”

McDonald, who lives in Little Rock, Ark., named the filly because of how prodigious Ornate has been as a broodmare.

A stakes winner of $177,972 in her career, Ornate was a two-time winner for Cauley/Hartlage/Johnson at Oaklawn (2001-2002). In addition to Treasure Box, Ornate has produced High Heels, the 2007 Fantasy Stakes (G2) winner; French Kiss, the 2009 Pippin Stakes winner and On Fire Baby, the 2012 Honeybee Stakes (G3) and 2013 Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) winner.

Cauley said Ornate is in foal to 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, but at 18, noted that her broodmare career is nearing an end.

“Obviously from here on out, anything I get from her is a gift,” Cauley said. “Everything’s been amazing, but, yeah, we’re in a countdown mode here and I understand that.”
 
Just a Fantasy?

Sweet Opportunity is a candidate for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 4 following her entry-level allowance victory last Friday over a muddy surface, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel said. The 3-year-old daughter of Distorted Humor appeared beaten “like three times” in the mile race, Von Hemel said, before rallying late to beat Harlans Belle by 1 ¼ lengths under Luis Quinonez.

“The track was, obviously, pretty muddy that day,” Von Hemel said. “Luis said it took him that long to find a spot where she liked the going. He Finally did it in the last eighth of a mile.”

Sweet Opportunity has never finished worse than third in seven career starts. She was coming off a runner-up finish behind Pangburn in a Feb. 20 entry-level allowance race. Pangburn returned to finish third in the $150,000 Honeybee Stakes (G3) March 7.

Sweet Opportunity, who closed out 2014 by running third in the $100,000 Trapeze Stakes last December at Remington Park, is owned by Wayne Sanders and Larry Hirsch, Von Hemel’s longtime clients.
 
Dawn At Oaklawn

Doc Danner, the agent for Joe Rocco Jr., and Jesus Castanon, is the special guest for Saturday’s Dawn At Oaklawn (7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m., Central) on the south apron of the grandstand.

The weekly program includes a question-and-answer session hosted by Oaklawn paddock analyst Nancy Ury-Holthus.

Danner had a long association with Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 1983-1994, and also represented Larry Snyder, an eight-time riding champion at Oaklawn.
 
Finish Lines

The track was only open for training Friday from 7 a.m.-9 a.m. (Central) because of heavy rain. Normal training hours are 7 a.m.-10:30 a.m. … Champion Untapable (Azeri), Tapiture (Razorback) and Bold Conquest (Rebel) went back to the track Wednesday following their races Saturday, said Darren Fleming, who oversees trainer Steve Asmussen’s Oaklawn division.




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