Oaklawn Barn Notes: Diodoro Hits More Milestones at Oaklawn

Oaklawn Barn Notes by Robert Yates

Contact: Jennifer Hoyt, jhoyt@oaklawn.com

(501) 363-4305

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Diodoro Hits More Milestones at Oaklawn

Robertino Diodoro became the 15th trainer in Oaklawn history to reach 300 career victories when Adaline Julia captured Saturday’s fourth race, a $103,000 entry-level allowance sprint for fillies and mares.

Adaline Julia came two weeks after Diodoro reached another career milestone at Oaklawn, becoming just the 37th trainer in North American history (United States and Canada) to record 3,000 victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.

“It’s been a good run,” Diodoro said during training hours Sunday morning. “All starts with the help and owners. If you don’t have those, you got nothing.”

Diodoro, who turned 49 last Monday, began racing at Oaklawn for the first time in 2015 and has become a dominant figure in Hot Springs, a meet he now points for, highlighted by his first local training title in 2020 and a torrid start at the 2022-2023 meeting that began Dec. 9.

Diodoro won 51 races in 2020, becoming the fourth trainer in Oaklawn history to reach 50 victories at a meet. He topped the 2022-2023 standings through Saturday, Day 17 of the scheduled 68-day meeting, with 22 victories from just 65 starts. Diodoro ($1,044,489) also became the first trainer at the meeting to surpass $1 million in purse earnings with Adaline Julia’s victory. Cristian Torres rode Adaline Julia ($6.40) for owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs. Diodoro added his 301st Oaklawn victory, and 3,015th in North America, when Totalizer ($7.60) won Saturday's seventh race.

“It’s been a great meet,” Diodoro said. “It’s a team effort, that’s what I always say.”

In addition to the 2020 title, Diodoro also finished second to perennial Oaklawn champion Steve Asmussen in 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2021-2022. Diodoro’s fast start in 2022-2023 includes a meet-high three stakes victories, increasing his career Oaklawn total to 13.

Diodoro entered Sunday with 301 victories from 1,263 starts and purse earnings of $12,444,670 in his Oaklawn career.


Hot and Sultry taking the American Beauty Stakes

Photo Credit: Coady Photography

Two Turns Next for Hot and Sultry?

Hot and Sultry will be considered for the $350,000 Azeri Stakes (G2) March 11, trainer Norm Casse said following her victory in the $150,000 American Beauty Stakes for older female sprinters Saturday at Oaklawn.

The Azeri would mark the two-turn debut for Hot and Sultry, a promising 4-year-old filly who races for prominent Arkansas owners Alex and JoAnn Lieblong. The Azeri is a major local prep for the $1 million Apple Blossom Handicap (G1) April 15. Both races for older fillies and mares are 1 1/16 miles.

“Well, that’s kind of the idea when we came down here,” Casse said. “We thought, ‘Man,’ this is a very talented horse. She seems like she can do anything. I, personally, when I watch her train, I feel like she’s a better route horse, just the way that she moves. So, we came down here with the intention, this weekend, actually, of running in an allowance race, two turns. Things changed because this race came up a little easier than it normally would have and we went for the glory today. But I wouldn’t be surprised if some comes back in maybe a race like the Azeri, something like that, and try our hand there.”

A $475,000 Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, Hot and Sultry was a flashy maiden special weight winner last season at Oaklawn and returned to finish second behind Grade 3 winner Yuugiri in a third-level allowance sprint Dec. 30 at Oaklawn. It marked Hot and Sultry’s first start since July 1 – an entry-level allowance victory in a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs – and her first for Casse, who began training for the Lieblongs last year. Hot and Sultry had previously been with Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.

Favored Hot and Sultry ($4.60) showed a new dimension in the American Beauty, coming from off the pace to beat I’m the Boss of Me by a half-length after breaking a step slow under David Cabrera. Hot and Sultry had led at every point of call in her previous two victories, including the 6-furlong race last January at Oaklawn.

“Almost feel like this was probably for the best, her breaking poorly like that today,” Casse said. “The idea was maybe to stretch her out next time. We would have just sent her running off her feet all the way in a sprint race. That would have kind of geared her up going into this route race. But I don’t know what we’ll do next. We’ve got options.”

Hot and Sultry’s first career stakes victory, and third in five starts overall, increased her earnings to $256,395. Hot and Sultry is a daughter of Grade 3 winner Speightster.

Secret Oath, the 2022 Kentucky Oaks champion and multiple Oaklawn stakes winner, is pointing for the Azeri, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. Multiple graded stakes winner Interstatedaydream is also targeting the Azeri, owner Staton Flurry of Hot Springs said. Interstatedaydream, who is trained by Brad Cox, was a powerful entry-level allowance winner last year at Oaklawn in her 3-year-old debut.

Show Him the Money

A victory in Saturday’s 10th race aboard Pate added to jockey Rafael Bejarano’s remarkable record in big-money races at Oaklawn.

The Clinton Stuart-trained Pate ($9.20) represented the 29th career Oaklawn victory for Bejarano, with almost 73 percent of those victories (21) coming in races worth at least $90,000 (maiden special weight, allowance or stakes). Saturday’s 10th race was a $90,000 maiden special weight sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Bejarano, through Saturday, had 13 victories in $90,000-plus races in 2022-2023 at Oaklawn, where he is riding regularly for the first time at the request of trainer Ron Moquett of Hot Springs. Bejarano had previously been based, year-round, in Kentucky. Bejarano, 40, entered Sunday as Oaklawn’s second-leading rider with 19 victories from 91 mounts. He also ranked third in purse earnings ($1,243,214).

“I’ve had a great meet, especially riding for Ron Moquett,” Bejarano said following Saturday’s 10th race. “He trains a lot of good horses.”

Bejarano and Moquett have teamed for eight victories in $90,000-plus races at the meeting, including one opening day, Dec. 9, when the jockey had a riding triple. Bejarano won a $90,000 maiden special weight sprint the following day aboard Spurrier, who represented Moquett’s 300th career Oaklawn victory.

“He’s doing well,” Moquett said. “We’re excited about having him. He’s obviously a proven class rider, to go along with a talented group of riders here. We knew that it would take a good rider to come in here and compete with them. Hard to wait on (Ricardo) Santana and some of the other ones who have large outfits that they can ride for. It’s hard to avoid them.”

Bejarano’s first 10 career Oaklawn victories included eight stakes (all worth at least $250,000) when he was based in Southern California. The last during that four-year stretch (2009-2013) was the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) in 2013 aboard Overanalyze for future Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. His first career Oaklawn victory came aboard Papa Clem in the 2009 Arkansas Derby.

“Last year I stayed at Turfway Park in the winter,” Bejarano said. “It was kind of cold. Here, it’s beautiful. The weather is perfect and the money’s good. New trainers, new faces. It’s been a good opportunity for me.”

Bejarano said the plan now is to return to Oaklawn next season.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Bejarano said. “If I still have the support of Ron Moquett, and continue doing well this year, we’ll definitely come back next year.”

Bejarano entered Sunday with 4,343 career North American victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. The total ranked 57th in history, based on Equibase statistics.

Prior to Dec. 9, Bejarano’s last victory at Oaklawn had come in the 2013 Arkansas Derby.

Finish Lines

Millionaire multiple Grade 2 winner Lone Rock returned to the work tab Sunday morning at Oaklawn, covering 3 furlongs in :36.40 under regular exercise rider Sarah Shaffer. Lone Rock, a multiple Oaklawn stakes winner and unraced since late July, galloped out a half-mile in :49.20. The track was fast. Trainer Robertino Diodoro has said the $150,000 Temperence Hill Stakes for older horses at 1 ½ miles April 2 at Oaklawn could be one potential 2023 target for Lone Rock. The 8-year-old gelding won the 2022 Temperence Hill. … Cristian Torres, Oaklawn’s leading rider in 2022-2023, recorded his second four-win day of the meet Saturday. Torres won the second race aboard favored Peace Dog ($4.40) for owner/trainer Ernie Witt II of Hot Springs, fourth race aboard Adaline Julia ($6.40) for trainer Robertino Diodoro and owner Jerry Caroom of Hot Springs, fifth race aboard Atta Party ($6) for trainer Miguel Angel Silva and the seventh race aboard Totalizer ($7.60) for Diodoro. Torres also rode four winners Dec. 10. Torres began riding at Oaklawn during the 2021 meeting. He established a single-season Oaklawn personal best for victories with Saturday’s four-bagger, which increased his total 25. Torres rode 22 winners in 2021. Torres (a meet-high $1,424,217 through Saturday) has already smashed his previous single-season personal best for purse earnings at Oaklawn. He had $1,034,104 in 2021. Saturday was Day 17 of the scheduled 68-day meeting. … Trainer Chris Hartman entered Sunday with 199 career victories, including 14 this season to rank second in the standings. Hartman had two horses entered Sunday at Oaklawn. … Hartman said Saturday morning that Klassy Bridgette, a two-time winner at the meeting, probably goes next in the $150,000 Dixie Belle Stakes for 3-year-old filly sprinters Feb. 11 at Oaklawn. Klassy Bridgette became the first Oaklawn winner for her sire, Grade 1 winner Army Mule, when she broke her maiden Dec. 11. … Kelsi Harr entered Sunday with $2,782,961 in career purse earnings at Oaklawn, just behind Cindy Murphy’s record $2,792,644 for a female jockey. The bulk of Murphy’s total came between 1997 and 2006 when she rode mostly as Cindy Noll. Harr, who began riding at Oaklawn in 2019, was named on three horses Sunday. Harr ($1,187,724) became the first female rider in Oaklawn history to surpass $1 million in purse earnings at a meet last season.