Lovely Ride secures the victory in the Pippin (Coady Photography)
Oaklawn Park Press Release
HOT SPRINGS, Ark.— Lovely Ride bids for her third stakes victory of the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting in Saturday’s inaugural $150,000 Dig a Diamond for older fillies and mares at 1 mile.
Probable post time for the Dig a Diamond, the ninth of 11 races, is 4:54 p.m. (Central). Racing begins at 12:30 p.m., with the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-old sprinters also on the card.
The projected seven-horse Dig a Diamond field from the rail out: Into Disco, Nik Juarez to ride, 122 pounds, 15-1 on the morning line; Coastal Charm, Martin Garcia, 122, 10-1; Let’s Cruise, Eduardo Gallardo, 115, 15-1; Lovely Ride, Cristian Torres, 122, 9-5; Gunning, Francisco Arrieta, 122, 6-1; Butterbean, Mitchell Murrill, 115, 7-2; and Tap Dance Fever, Isaac Castillo, 115, 5-2.
The speedy Lovely Ride will be making her fifth start at the meeting for trainer Robertino Diodoro and an ownership group that includes John Holleman, a Little Rock, Ark., attorney, and Larry Nafe, a Little Rock small animal veterinarian. All four of Lovely Ride’s starts have come in stakes company, highlighted by front-running scores in the $150,000 Mistletoe at 1 mile Dec. 10 and the $150,000 Pippin at 1 1/16 miles Jan. 7. Lovely Ride then finished second, beaten a half-length, in the $250,000 Bayakoa (G3) at 1 1/16 miles Feb. 4 and sixth in her last start, the $350,000 Azeri (G2) at 1 1/16 miles March 11.
Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer this season, said Lovely Ride has done well physically since the Azeri, which featured heavyweights Clairiere and Secret Oath. Diodoro began pointing for the Dig a Diamond shortly after the Azeri.
“She’s starting to get dapples on her and seems happy,” Diodoro said. “I think we definitely made the wise choice to give her a little break.”
The Azeri was final major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) at 1 1/16 miles April 15. Lovely Ride went straight to the front in the Azeri and turned into the stretch with a narrow lead before weakening in the final sixteenth of a mile and finishing 4 ¾ lengths behind Secret Oath.
“She ran hard,” Diodoro said. “I think the effort in the race was probably her hardest race. She ran hard that day, without the best results.”
Lovely Ride would join Wet Paint as the only three-time stakes winners at the 2022-2023 Oaklawn meeting with a victory Saturday. Diodoro said Lovely Ride’s strategy will be the same as her first four starts this season at Oaklawn – catch me if you can.
“We can’t change our style now,” Diodoro said.
Other top Dig a Diamond contenders include Grade 3 winner Butterbean and Gunning for trainer Kenny McPeek and Tap Dance Fever for trainer Bret Calhoun.
Butterbean finished second in her 4-year-old debut, a 1-mile allowance March 17 at Oaklawn. Gunning returns to stakes company after winning her first two starts at the meeting. Tap Dance Fever, previously with trainer Gerald Bennett, will be making her Oaklawn debut after competing in stakes company this winter in Florida.
Into Disco (2 for 3 at the meeting) will try to give trainer Riley Mott his first career stakes victory.