Robertino Diodoro in a post-race interview after Lone Rock won the Temperence Hill April 3 at Oaklawn(Coady Photography)
Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.—As the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting approaches, so does a career milestone for trainer Robertino Diodoro.
Diodoro entered Monday with 2,976 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization, a total that ranked 37th in North American history (races in the United States and Canada).
Diodoro’s wide-reaching operation has horses entered in upcoming days at Turf Paradise in Arizona, Delta Downs in Louisiana, Remington Park in Oklahoma and Oaklawn, which launches its scheduled 68-day meeting Friday. Diodoro has three horses entered opening day, including unbeaten Too Much Info (1 for 1) in the $150,000 Advent Stakes for 2-year-old sprinters.
“I would definitely like it (3,000th victory) to be here, for sure,” Diodoro said.
Diodoro, 48, has been a fixture at the top of the Oaklawn standings since he began wintering in Hot Springs in 2015. The Canadian-born Diodoro, who has a home minutes from Oaklawn, has 279 career victories, including 10 stakes.
Sandwiched around runner-up finishes at Oaklawn behind perennial champion Steve Asmussen in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2021-2022 was a 2020 training title. Diodoro won 51 races in 2020, joining David Vance, the late Cole Norman and Asmussen as the only trainers in Oaklawn history to reach 50 victories in a single season.
Traditionally active at the claim box, Diodoro said he’s had to retool his stable in recent months after losing major client Cypress Creek Equine – they had teamed to win Grade 2 events with Keepmeinmind and Dream Lith – and another high-profile owner, M and M Racing (Mike and Mickala Sisk), hitting the pause button.
M and M Racing set single-season Oaklawn records for victories (61) and purse earnings ($1,782,351) at the 2019 meeting. M and M Racing captured its fourth consecutive Oaklawn owner’s title in 2021 and finished third last season. It hasn’t started a horse since July 23.
“It’s been really weird,” Diodoro said. “Been very fortunate to have some new guys step up, like John Holleman, Jerry Caroom. Got some for Heath and Sheena Campbell. All three of those are local. We have a lot of new faces in the barn – when you go down the chart of the horses and who owns them. At the same time, we’ve still got the regulars. Got a couple here for Charles Garvey, got quite a few for the Wiests, Randy Howg.”
Diodoro is scheduled to send out Still On the Books in Friday’s first race for Holleman, a Little Rock, Ark., attorney. Too Much Info is owned by Caroom, a Hot Springs businessman.
Diodoro, in recent months, has claimed horses for Holleman, Caroom and the Campbells in advance of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting. The results with Caroom have eye popping. They were 1 for 1 together at the Del Mar fall meeting that concluded Sunday. They are 7 for 7 at Remington Park, which closes Dec. 17.
“It’s all the trainer’s fault,” Caroom, jokingly, said. “The owner had nothing to do with it. I don’t even take credit for it.”
Diodoro claimed Bal Harbour for $50,000 out of a Sept. 5 victory at Saratoga. Bal Harbour, owned by Holleman, finished third in the $350,000 Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance Stakes (G2) at 1 5/8 miles Nov. 4 at Keeneland in his last start. Bal Harbour is pointing for the $200,000 Tinsel Stakes at 1 1/8 miles Dec. 17 at Oaklawn, Diodoro said. The trainer claimed two horses on behalf of the Campbells at the recently concluded Churchill Downs fall meeting. Diodoro also won shakes, or blind draws, of 15, 12 and 11 to claim other horses last month at Churchill Downs.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Diodoro said, referring to competition, particularly in Kentucky, at the claim box.
As for the most accomplished horse in his barn, millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock, Diodoro said the 7-year-old gelding recently resumed training in Florida and is scheduled to begin his 2023 campaign at Oaklawn.
Lone Rock, a distance specialist, won the Tinsel and $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes at the 2021-2022 Oaklawn meeting. Diodoro said Lone Rock will target the $150,000 Temperence Hill for older horses at 1 ½ miles April 2.