Pretty Birdie Wins Poinsettia For A Casse Double
Bal Harbour (#4 rail) outbids Last Samurai (#1) for the win. (Coady Photography)
Jennifer Hoyt/Oaklawn Racing
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.– Trainer Robertino Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2020, is off to a fast start at the 2022-2023 meet, picking up his second stakes win since the Dec. 9 opening and his second straight $200,000 Tinsel Stakes victory on Saturday with John Holleman’s Bal Harbour. Last Saturday, he won the $150,000 Mistletoe Stakes with Lovely Ride. He won the 2021 Tinsel Stakes with Lone Rock.
In the Tinsel, Bal Harbour broke on top and had his own way through early fractions of :23 2/5 and :47 2/5 for the first half mile. The 7-year-old gelding, who held a 2 ½ length advantage entering the stretch had just enough left in the tank to hold off 2022 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) winner Last Samurai by a neck under jockey Cristian Torres. Scarlet Fusion was third with 6-5 favorite Run Classic a neck behind in fourth. The winning time was 1:49 1/5 over a fast track.
“There was only one horse with speed. I came to the paddock, and I told Robertino (Diodoro): ‘The last time this horse won was on the lead. I’m going to take a chance and break and go.’ It worked out perfectly. As soon as I mentioned it to him, he agreed completely. We took the race and we took the win,” Torres said.
Bal Harbour was making just the second start for his connections after being claimed for $50,000 Sept. 5 at Saratoga. In his first start for Diodoro and Holleman, he had finished third in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes at Keeneland Nov. 4. Overall, he now has a record of 7-5-10 in 34 starts and has won $870,880. He returned $13.60, $4.60 and $2.80 at odds of 5-1.
“Nancy (Holthus) interviewed me yesterday. I wasn’t being arrogant or anything. I just said: ‘I know there’s lot of speed on paper and that’s really against us because we really want to be the speed.’ But at the same time, I said we’re not changing our running style. There’s really no Plan B here,” Diodoro said. “We’re going to the front. Again, I wasn’t being arrogant or anything. That’s the way horse runs the best and I’m worried about my horse. I’m not going to worry about five other horses with speed. Told Cristian: ‘Just go into the gate like we’re the only speed. You have the attitude you’re the only speed in the race and we’re going to the front.’”
Trainer Bret Calhoun, beaten favorite Run Classic, fourth remarked: “Brian (Hernandez) gave him a great ride. Great move into the first turn, switched outside and had him in a great spot all the way along. He (Run Classic) didn’t seem to take him along like he has in some of his last few races. You could see he wasn’t towing him up there. He was in a good spot, and he just wasn’t taking him there, like he has in his last few races. He warmed up great, had a great trip, great position. Just didn’t fire his best race today.”
Two races earlier, Marylou Whitney Stables’ Pretty Birdie won the $150,000 Poinsettia Stakes in front-running fashion to give trainer Norm Casse his second victory of the day. It was the second Oaklawn stakes victory for Casse and the 3-year-old filly, who won the $150,000 Purple Martin Stakes in March during the 2021-2022 season.
Breaking from post seven under jockey David Cabrera, Pretty Birdie went right to the lead and set fractions of :22 1/5 and :45 4/5 for the first half mile. The winner was never seriously threatened as she easily won by two lengths over Sarah Harper in 1:03 2/5 for 5 ½ furlongs over a fast track. Carribean Caper, the slight 5-2 favorite, got up late for third.
“I knew there was a lot of speed in the race. She’s so quick out of the gates that, you just saw it today, she’s so speedy out of the gates, I felt really comfortable,” said Cabrera. “I saw there was a lot of speed, but I felt comfortable. I said, ‘If somebody wants to take the lead, that’s fine. We’ll lay off of it.’ She’s gotten way more professional from earlier this year, so I felt really confident. Going into the race, I was like, ‘She’ll be all right.’ We broke on top, I was like, ‘What else can we ask for, right?’”
Pretty Birdie, a Bird Song filly, won for the fourth time in nine career starts and has now earned $462,388. She returned $10.60, $5.40 and $4.
“I was very apprehensive going 5 1/2 (furlongs), that that would be a detriment today. But as long as she breaks on top, she’s pretty damn fast. I think she’s a much better filly than before,” Casse said. “She was always very temperamental, was kind of nasty to be around. I say that with respect. After the break during the summer, she really became a much more professional horse. I just had a lot of confidence coming over today that we were going to run really big.”
Live racing resumes Sunday with a 12:30 p.m. first post.