Diodoro Returns To Oaklawn With A Full Barn, Ready To Pursue Training Title Again

The Oaklawn trainer’s race annually boils down to Big Blue (the stable colors of Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen) vs. Big Red (the stable colors of Robertino Diodoro).

The trainers have finished 1-2 in the standings at every meeting at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Ark., since 2017, with Asmussen claiming the title in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021, which marked his record-tying 11th overall. Diodoro broke through in 2020, a year after helping his major client, M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), establish a single-season Oaklawn record for owners with 61 victories.

Diodoro returns to Hot Springs with a full barn (40 horses) in hopes of unseating Asmussen, North America’s all-time winningest trainer and the second-winningest trainer in Oaklawn history.

“I think we’ve got a few more maidens this year, which is always good to have,” Diodoro said. “Hopefully, once we get a little close to running, hopefully, some of them show enough promise to run maiden special weights. But maidens overall are good to have. We definitely have more of them. Still trying to gather up a few more for the meet.”

Diodoro’s unquestioned stable star is multiple Grade 2 winner and millionaire Lone Rock, a 6-year-old Majestic Warrior gelding who has flourished at marathon distances.

Lone Rock recently arrived at Oaklawn after setting a 1 5/8-mile track record in winning the $250,000 G2 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes Nov. 6 at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club in Del Mar, Calif. Lone Rock won allowance races at 1 1/16 and 1 ½ miles during the 2021 Oaklawn meeting and is under consideration for its inaugural $200,000 Tinsel Stakes Dec. 18, Diodoro said. The Tinsel is 1 1/8 miles.

Diodoro said the Tinsel could be an option for win-machine Thomas Shelby, who captured a starter-allowance route Thursday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Thomas Shelby, who is owned by M and M Racing, has won three consecutive starts and 7 of 11 overall this year. He was a two-time winner at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting.

Diodoro said Grade 2 winner Keepmeinmind is receiving a break a Cypress Creek Farm in Midway, Ky., after missing the $1 million G1 Pennsylvania Derby Sept. 25 at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Penn., because of a foot abscess. Keepmeinmind began his busy 2021 campaign with a sixth-place finish in the $1 million G2 Rebel Stakes for 3-year-olds in March at Oaklawn. He later finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, fourth in the Preakness, and fourth in his last start, the $1.25 million G1 Travers Stakes Aug. 28 at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

“He’s having a short little break right now,” Diodoro said. “You’ll see him, most likely, the last part of the meet here. He’s doing good. We really just gave him the time off because he was tired.”

Diodoro said Ava’s Grace, runner-up in the $600,000 G3 Fantasy Stakes for 3-year-old fillies last April at Oaklawn, is about to resume training and there’s a chance she could start at the 2021-2022 meeting. Ava’s Grace is unraced since June.

A 2-year-old to watch is Dream Lith, a Medaglia d’Oro filly who won her Aug. 8 career debut at Saratoga and finished fifth in the $400,000 G1 Alcibiades Stakes Oct. 8 at Keeneland in her last start.

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Diodoro began wintering at Oaklawn in 2015 and has 238 victories overall, including eight stakes. He won nine races in 2015, 22 in 2016, 31 in 2017, 32 in 2018, 48 in 2019, and a personal best 52 in 2020. Diodoro had 44 winners at the 2021 Oaklawn meeting.

Diodoro’s biggest career victory in Hot Springs came in 2017 with Inside Straight in the $750,000 G2 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses.

Asmussen has 755 career Oaklawn victories. He won 60 races at the 2021 meeting.

The post Diodoro Returns To Oaklawn With A Full Barn, Ready To Pursue Training Title Again appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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