Robertino Diodoro has one of those names with a ring that sort of sing.
You’ve heard it four of the last six years when the horses he has trained won the Canadian Derby and you’ve heard it this week with the insane situation of the 2017 Derby result being settled in court two years after it was run with his promise it will be back in a higher court for another running.
But Diodoro is making himself a much bigger name than his annual return to where he started in the horse racing business to compete in the Canadian Derby.
He’s now third in North America in wins and money earnings among thoroughbred trainers.
It’s mid-August and Diodoro has topped the $3 million mark in winnings for the sixth straight season and could hit the $4 million mark here this weekend.
Breaking the $4 million barrier for the first time in 2016 and reaching the $5 million plus mark in 2017, he topped $6 million for the first time last year.
‘Tino’, as he’s known around the backstretch, is on a rocket ride in the sport since he packed his bags and left Northlands Park to set up training operations at U.S. tracks.
He went into the week having saddled horses for 11,061 career starts. His horses have finished first 2,241 times with earnings of $38,003,239. That’s an average of $3,436 per start with a 20 per cent win percentage and a 49 per cent win-place-show percentage. So far this season he’s won 158 of 650 for $3,909,212 and $5,756 per start for a win percentage of 24 per cent and a WPS record of 60 percent.
Diodoro is definitely not coming home to return to set up operations to race in Edmonton soon even with the new mile long track. But he continues to religiously return, bringing horses with him to race at the Canadian Derby as he has done again this year.
With Sunday’s Derby offering $250,000 — $100,000 more than the race two years ago and $50,000 more than last year — Diodoro has brought two three-year-olds from Canterbury Park in Minnesota here this year.
Senor Friday will be ridden by Canterbury jockey Orlando Mojica. The other, which will find the big local following, is Miltontown which will be ridden by longtime top local jockey Rico Walcott, who has finished first in five Canadian Derby races, crossing the line first in four of the last six on Diodoro-trained horses — Broadway Empire in 2013, Edison in 2014, Chief Know It All in 2017 and Sky Promise last year — although the 2017 race was judged in court this week to have been won by Double Bear with Chief Know It All second and Trooper John third.
There are many who will be betting 8-5 morning line favorite Final Jeopardy out of post position No. 8 to win this one. Miltontown, purchased especially for Walcott to ride in this race, is the third favorite racing from the No. 5 post position going in at 6-to-1 on the morning line behind 4-to-1 No. 6 horse Explode. No. 10 Senor Friday is 20-to-1.
“It’s an awesome field. I’m very impressed. It’s a pretty solid Derby. Very solid,” said Diodoro. “Final Jeopardy looks like the real deal. Nothing is easy. There’s no guarantees. But we wouldn’t go across the country if we didn’t think we had a chance. That’s why both horses are at Century Mile. If we didn’t think we had a shot we wouldn’t be there.”
Once Walcott had returned to the track after suffering four seizures and undergoing surgery for a golf-ball-sized tumor on the left side of his brain, there was no chance he wasn’t going to get the Edmonton jockey a chance to win another Derby together.
“It’s good to see him back and good to have him on or team again. I think everyone is excited about it, certainly all our owners and myself.”
Diodoro said coming home to Alberta as the third-leading trainer in North America this year is exceptionally satisfying.
“I’ve just been real fortunate to have a real good group of guys working for me and owners that have been loyal, faithful and spending the money claiming and purchasing better horses every year. I can’t say enough about having the 115 horses I’m training and have the group of owners I have. A lot of those guys I’m talking about are from Alberta and have supported me since my decision to leave Alberta.”
He was stabled at Northlands Park in 2013 and 2014 when he won his first two Derby races with Broadway Empire and Edison then made the move.
“I don’t think it was any different than anybody in any sport. You want to make it to the next level.”
He’s based mostly at Canterbury Park in Minnesota in the summer and Turf Paradise in Phoenix and Oak Lawn in Arkansas in the winter.
“Oak Lawn has become pretty huge, actually. They have huge purses there and we’ve had three really good years there the last three years.”
He remains religious about returning here every August.
“It’s great. It’s a chance to see some of my owners I don’t get a chance to see as much as I’d like to and to see friends, and, of course, family. It’s clients, friends and family all at the same time. And, of course, it’s to run in the Canadian Derby. You can’t beat it.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019