(Trainer Robertson Diodoro / Photo Courtesy of Oaklawn Park)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
Robertino Diodoro has been Oaklawn’s second-leading trainer the last three years and is off to a strong start at the scheduled 57-day meeting in 2020 (Jan. 24-May 2).
After the first six racing days, Diodoro topped the standings with seven victories, highlighted by stakes scores from Pioneer Spirit in the second division of the $100,000 Fifth Season for older horses Jan. 25 and Special Relativity in last Saturday’s $125,000 American Beauty for older female sprinters.
“Sixty days before the meet, I was thinking that maybe we should be going to Delta or Sam Houston because we had a very weak barn,” Diodoro said during training hours Sunday morning. “Things have just come together. We picked up one or two new horses here and there from some new clients and made claims and a lot of private purchases the last 60 days before the meet that have beefed up the stable.”
Pioneer Spirit, for example, is 2 for 2 (both stakes) after Diodoro claimed the son of Malibu Moon for $150,000 Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs. Pioneer Spirit is co-owned by one of those new clients, New Yorker Lawrence P. Roman, whose first career Oaklawn starters coincided with his first trip to Oaklawn, Diodoro said. After Pioneer Spirit’s victory in the Fifth Season, Roman, as sole owner, won a Jan. 25 allowance sprint with What a Fox to cap the late daily double for the owner and trainer.
“He loved it here,” Diodoro said.
What a Fox is entered in an allowance race Friday, and Diodoro said Pioneer Spirit remains under consideration for the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 17.
Diodoro called the American Beauty “special” because it marked the first career stakes victory in Hot Springs for his major client, M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk). M and M collected Oaklawn’s owner’s titles in 2018 and 2019, setting a single-season total for victories (61) last year. Special Relativity won the 6-furlong American Beauty a week after finishing second in the $100,000 Pippin Stakes at a mile.
Diodoro said it’s a training move he’s attempted before, but only with cheap horses.
“Never done this with a good horse,” Diodoro said. “I’ll give Ike Green some credit for that. He’s the one that came up with the idea, my assistant. He came up with it right after she ran the other day.”
Diodoro said Special Relativity came out of her 4 ¼-length American Beauty victory “unbelievable” physically, but she was already booked to Into Mischief and has been retired to be bred to North America’s leading sire in 2019.
“She ran huge,” Diodoro said. “Just kind of wraps up who she is. Always gives you 100 percent. Big mare. That was good.”
A 5-year-old daughter of Cowboy Cal, Special Relativity retires with an 8-5-6 record from 26 lifetime starts and earnings of $535,900. She was an allowance winner at the 2019 Oaklawn meeting and captured the $100,000 Shine Again Stakes July 31 at Saratoga.
Diodoro bids for his third stakes victory of the meeting in Saturday’s $125,000 King Cotton for older sprinters with Silver Ride, an opening-day allowance/optional claiming winner.
Diodoro has increased his victory at every Oaklawn meet since he began racing in Hot Springs in 2015 (nine wins). He won 22 races in 2016, 31 in 2017, 32 in 2018 and 48 last year. Diodoro entered Thursday with 149 career victories, including seven stakes, at Oaklawn.
Turnstone became the first Lasix-free winner of the meet in the fifth race Jan. 31, earning a 10-percent bonus of the winner’s share of the purse ($5,100) for trainer Will VanMeter and breeder/owner John Ed Anthony of Hot Springs.
Turnstone, who has never raced on the anti-bleeder medication, became the 35th winner overall since Oaklawn began offering Lasix-free bonuses in 2015. VanMeter and Anthony (Shortleaf Stable) each have six Lasix-free victories, the most for a trainer or owner, respectively, under the incentive program.
“I think it’s great,” VanMeter said during training hours Tuesday morning. “I think the horses do better without it. If they bleed, then I’m happy to put them on it. Glad that we have it in our tool kit. She seemed to come out of the race good and hasn’t missed an oat. Especially some of these lighter fillies, it doesn’t take any of that water weight away from them. It seems to make sense to run a hydrated horse.”
Favored Turnstone ($6.20) rallied to win the maiden special weights sprint for 3-year-old Arkansas-bred fillies by a neck under Joe Rocco, Jr. Anthony, among the most successful owners in Oaklawn, is a staunch supporter of the country’s hay, oats and water movement.
The original purse of the race was $85,000, but adjusted to $90,100 because of the Lasix-free bonus. Bonus money, which is covered by Oaklawn, has totaled more than $100,000 since the program began.
Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. entered Thursday with 492 career Oaklawn victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. Santana won six consecutive local riding titles (2013-2018) and had a meet-high seven victories this year through Sunday. … Gold Street, winner of the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes for 3-year-olds Jan. 24, returned to the work tab Wednesday morning, covering 5 furlongs in 1:01.60 over a muddy track. Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussensaid Gold Street “most likely” will make his next start in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 17. … Chain Mover is scheduled to make his career debut in Friday’s sixth race for Asmussen and owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong of Conway, Ark. Named for a football phrase – “Move the chains” – Chain Mover is the second scheduled Oaklawn starter by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, North America’s leading first-crop sire in 2019. The Lieblongs, Oaklawn’s third-leading owners last year, purchased Chain Mover for $400,000 at Keeneland’s 2018 January Horses of All Ages sale. He is a half-brother to millionaire and multiple Grade 2 winner Smooth Air. The first Oaklawn starter by American Pharoah, American Butterfly, finished second in last Sunday’s eighth race for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. American Pharoah won Oaklawn’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2015 before sweeping the Triple Crown. Also scheduled to make his career debut in Friday’s 6-furlong maiden special weights race for 3-year-olds is Smack Attack for trainer Don Von Hemel of Hot Springs and country music star Toby Keith, who bred and owns the son of 2019 North American leading sire Into Mischief. Smack Attack is a half-brother to Smack Smack, a multiple stakes winner and near-millionaire for Von Hemel and Keith, who races under the Dream Walkin Farms banner. Probable post time for Friday’s sixth race is 3:46 p.m. (Central). … Lightly raced Communicator, a 4-year-old half-brother to champion Accelerate, is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in Saturday’s seventh race for trainer Brad Cox. Communicator, a Bernardini gelding, was purchased for $300,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling Sale and has a 1-1-0 record from three lifetime starts. Accelerate was the country’s champion older dirt male in 2018, with his only loss in seven starts coming in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Saturday’s seventh race is a first-level allowance for older horses at 1 mile. Probable post time is 4:09 p.m. (Central). … Saturday’s nine-race program is headed by the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters. The projected King Cotton field from the rail out: Share the Upside, Hidden Ruler, Silver Ride,Whitmore, Nun the Less, Home Run Maker, Tringale and 2018 winner Wilbo. Probable post time for the 6-furlong King Cotton, which goes as race 8, is 4:38 p.m. First post Saturday is 1:05 p.m. … The King Cotton is the final leg of the Cross Country Pick 5, a multi-race wager hosted by the New York Racing Association. Other Pick 5 races are the $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield from Aqueduct, $150,000 Suncoast from Tampa Bay Downs, $175,000 Tampa Bay (G3) from Tampa Bay Downs and the $250,000 Sam F. Davis (G3) from Tampa Bay Downs. The minimum bet for the Cross County Pick 5 is 50 cents and wagering is available on track, through advance deposit wagering platforms and simulcast facilities across the country. There will be mandatory payout of the entire pool. … In addition to Special Relativity, two other starters from last Saturday’s $125,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters have been retired to become broodmares. Ascot Day and Talbeya, both owned by Shadwell Stables, are going to Bernardini and Mohaymen, respectively, Rick Nichols, the farm’s vice president and general manager, said in an email Wednesday morning. Both horses were trained by Dan Peitz, with Ascot Day winning a 2019 allowance race at Oaklawn. Special Relativity is to be bred to Into Mischief.