Sunday, May 16, 2010

Diplo Steps It Up

When Diplo broke his maiden on May 1 you could hear a collective sigh across the country as his partners finally exhaled. All the near misses were a thing of the past and he was now a winner. It was time for us to savor the moment and bask in the afterglow of a well-earned victory.

He came back from his win in fine fettle. So well, in fact, that trainer Doug O'Neil brought him back after only 11 days to give the turf course a try. The gelding was sound and tearing it up - like he finally knew what winning was all about. Whether it was the jock switch to Martin Pedroza or just having the light switch on upstairs, Diplo acted the part of a winner and was ready to go.

In the effort to promote full disclosure here, this is how I thought his next race would set up:

He finally broke his maiden after several tries and dropping down through the ranks, settling at the $25,000 claiming level. In my years of watching races it's rare to see a maiden step up beyond the class they broke through. It happens, of course, but for the most part the best a Maiden Claiming $25,000 could hope to do against winners is score against $16,000 claimers. Perhaps even drop as low as $12,500. That was the direction I thought we'd end up going in and I would have had no problem with the decision.

In his first spot over the turf, O'Neil picked out a $50,000 claiming race going a mile over the Hollywood Park turf course. When Diplo went off at odds of 40-1, I can't say that I was surprised. Quite honestly I was hoping he'd be able to sneak up for third and pick up a decent check. There were no fairy tale endings here with our boy swooping down the stretch and on to victory, but something interesting did happen. Our boy ran like he knew what he was doing.

Diplo broke well and Pedroza had him in good position mid-pack down the back side. Between the quarter and half mile poles he slid from third to fourth and I though, "well, he gave it a brave run". But Diplo was not through. Far from it. He made up ground through the bend and by the time they straightened out for home he was in second, only a length and a half from the front. He gained steadily through the lane to finish second by 3/4 of a length, though in fairness to the winner, Camp Victory, it wasn't like the winner was ridden all out to hang on at the wire either.

The second was a spot better than I had hoped, It it was more than that. The way Diplo ran was important. He obviously enjoyed the grass and his run through the stretch was aggressive and characteristic of a race horse with a lot of grit and heart. He showed he not only belonged with "better" horses, but could be a force to be reckoned with as well.

I don't know what's next, but this race opened up all kinds of possibilities.

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