Friday, January 27, 2017

Diodoro Off to a Fast Start

No Subtle Indian, no problem for high-percentage trainer Robertino Diodoro, who is tied for second in the Oaklawn standings after the first nine days of the scheduled 57-day meeting. Juggling approximately 40 horses this month in Hot Springs, Diodoro has a sparkling 7-3-3 record from 23 starts and purse earnings of $215,022.

“I’m not surprised,” Diodoro said of his fast start. “I really think we put a decent group together. It was two, three months of planning – we just didn’t scramble the last week and buy horses. I give my owners, some new guys and some guys I’ve had before, I give them a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate and helping us build a stable.”

Diodoro’s 30-percent strike rate mirrors his combined record at the 2015 and 2016 Oaklawn meetings – the trainer’s first two stints in Hot Springs – when he was 31 of 103.

His Oaklawn string the last two years was headed by the ultra-fast Subtle Indian, who won 6 of 7 starts and three stakes, including the $400,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) last April. But, the 5-year-old Indian Charlie gelding, a Breeders’ Cup Sprint candidate in 2016, suffered a career-ending leg injury (suspensory ligament) in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) July 31 at Del Mar.

“Kind of leaves a big hole in the stable,” Diodoro said. “It’s an unfortunate part of horse racing.”

Diodoro has unveiled several promising runners this month at Oaklawn, including Smokin Now and Mishegas. Smokin Now, in his 3-year-old debut, broke his maiden by 3 ¾ lengths sprinting Jan. 14. A son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow out of multiple graded stakes winner Smoke Glacken, Smokin Now is owned by Mercedes Stables LLC (Maria Vila and Ernest Moody), which also campaigned Subtle Indian.

Smokin Now (bucked shins) was making his first start since finishing fourth in his July 22 career debut at Prairie Meadows. Diodoro said he will take his time with Smokin Now and point the colt for an allowance race.

“I don’t want to get too excited,” Diodoro said. “I like the horse. He’s still immature. I think he’ll get better, but at the same time we’re not going to throw him to the wolves.”

Mishegas, a 4-year-old Include gelding, was a 2 ¾-length second-level allowance/optional claiming winner at 1 1/16 miles Saturday.

Mishegas was making his first start since being claimed for $40,000 out of runner-up finish Dec. 17 at Los Alamitos. The gelding also ran fourth in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Derby (G2) Sept. 24 at Los Alamitos.

“I think we made a good claim, not just because we won,” Diodoro said. “We really liked the horse after we got him.”

Diodoro said he has no immediate plans for Mishegas, but said he believes the gelding has upside.

“I think there’s room for improvement,” Diodoro said. “I think the horse will get better.”

Diodoro is also scheduled to send out D R C’s Pretty Sky in Saturday’s $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older fillies and mares at 6 furlongs. She won the $75,000 Zia Park Distaff Stakes Nov. 23 at Zia Park after being privately purchased last fall.

Diodoro, whose Oaklawn division is overseen by Rob Atras, is the runaway leader in the standings this winter at Turf Paradise.
 
Joining the Club?

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Friday morning that he’s leaning toward starting Warrior’s Club in the $500,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Feb. 20.

Warrior’s Club, campaigned by the non-profit Churchill Downs Racing Club, finished fourth in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 16, beaten 12 lengths by Uncontested as the 9-2 third choice. Lukas said he wants look at nominations for the Southwest before finalizing a decision, but said Warrior’s Club is “still on the radar” for the 1 1/16-mile race.

“I would say at this point he’s leaning that direction, for sure,” Lukas said. “There isn’t much more I can do with him.”

Warrior’s Club worked a half-mile in :50 Wednesday morning.

Uncontested and Smarty Jones runner-up Petrov are pointing for the Southwest, Oaklawn’s second major prep for the Kentucky Derby.

The series continues with the $900,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 18 and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 15.

Uncontested worked a half-mile in :48.40 following the renovation break Friday morning for trainer Wayne Catalano. The track was rated fast.
 
Making Plans

Benner Island is pointing for the $125,000 Martha Washington Stakes for 3-year-old fillies Feb. 11, trainer Brad Cox said Friday morning. The 1-mile Martha Washington is Oaklawn’s first major two-turn prep for the $400,000 Fantasy Stakes (G3) April 14.

Benner Island, a daughter of sprint champion Speightstown, is coming off a 3 ¾-length first-level allowance/optional claiming victory at a mile Nov. 26 at Churchill Downs.

“As of right now, I think she’s got a big upside,” Cox said. “She should be able to go the two-turn mile here.”

Benner Island, owned by John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs (Shortleaf Stable, Inc.), also ran second last year in the $75,000 Arlington-Washington Lassie Stakes at Arlington Park and seventh in the $400,000 Alcibiades Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.

Other locally based horses pointing for the Martha Washington include Chanel’s Legacy, My Sweet Stella, Perfect Wife and Torrent. Chanel’s Legacy and My Sweet Stella ran 1-2, respectively, in Saturday’s $125,000 Dixie Belle Stakes. Perfect Wife and Torrent ran 1-2, respectively, in the $100,000 Trapeze Stakes Dec. 11 at Remington Park.
 
Finish Lines

Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel recorded his 950th career Oaklawn victory aboard Limonte ($9.60) in Thursday’s seventh race for co-owner/trainer Lon Wiggins, according to Equibase, racing’s official data organization. Borel, 50, won his first race at Oaklawn in 1989 and was its leading rider in 1995 and 2001. His 3,000th, 4,000th and 5,000th career victories all came in Hot Springs. … Three-time defending Oaklawn leading owner Danny Caldwell won three races Thursday: Favored Kelly Belly Kid ($5.40) in the second, favored By Golly Its a Cat ($5) in the fifth and Plum Gorgeous ($14.80) in the sixth. Caldwell has 85 career victories at Oaklawn, including a meet-high nine this year. He only had two winners through the first nine days of the 2016 meeting. Plum Gorgeous also capped a three-win day for leading jockey Ramon Vazquez and leading trainer Federico Villafranco. Caldwell, Vazquez and Villafranco teamed for three victories Feb. 27, 2016 at Oaklawn. … Tommy Vance of Hot Springs, who resumed training last fall, recorded his first Oaklawn victory since 1993 in Thursday’s fourth race with Lucy’s Revenge ($17.60). Vance is the son of four-time Oaklawn training champion David Vance. … Jockey Kevin Roman (0 for 17 through the first eight days) had his first career Oaklawn victory when Tosha Talifero ($8.20) dead-heated with Desert Thief ($3.40) in Thursday’s first race. … Mud Light ($25.80) recorded the largest margin of victory at the meet in Thursday’s third race (11 ¾ lengths) … Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he’s nominated millionaire and two-turn specialist Mr. Z to the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes Feb. 4. Just “taking a look,” Lukas said of the 6-furlong King Cotton. … Royal Copy, unraced since a second-place finish in the $350,000 Hopeful Stakes (G1) Sept. 5 at Saratoga (ankle chip), is galloping under tack, Lukas said Friday morning, but there is no timetable for his 3-year-old debut. Royal Copy is from the first crop of Bodemeister, a 9 ½-length winner of the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2012. … Top Arkansas-bred sprinter Bumpy Cat has been retired, trainer Ingrid Mason said. The 6-year-old Portobello Road gelding ran 6 furlongs in 1:09.90 to win a third-level allowance race against state-breds at the 2016 Oaklawn meeting before running second, beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Arkansas-bred star Weast Hill, in the $100,000 Nodouble Breeders’ Stakes at 6 furlongs. Bumpy Cat won 4 of 20 starts and earned $144,039 in his career.



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