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Trainer Diodoro dominates Derby

'Assiniboia Downs is one of the best-run tracks there is'

Rico Walcott riding Sky Promise wins the 70th running of the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs Monday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Rico Walcott riding Sky Promise wins the 70th running of the Manitoba Derby at Assiniboia Downs Monday. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 6/8/2018 (707 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Sky Promise made a powerful move between horses into the final turn at Assiniboia Downs and swooped to a 7½-length victory under jockey Rico Walcott in the 70th running of the $75,000 Manitoba Derby on Monday.

The move took place in front of huge Derby Day crowd that all looked liked they bet on the winner.

And they probably did.

When one of the top trainers in North America sends three horses from across North America to Manitoba for a horse race, you’d better believe he’s serious, and Robertino Diodoro certainly was.

A happy day at the races for race fans Patrick Sheldon (left) and Sandy Morris at the Manitoba Derby (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

A happy day at the races for race fans Patrick Sheldon (left) and Sandy Morris at the Manitoba Derby (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

“Everywhere you go, you want win, but Assiniboia Downs is one of the best–run tracks there is. Very accommodating. Very nice people. If the Canadian dollar ever went to par, there’d be 500 more horses here. It’s an older facility, but they keep it clean and it’s very horse friendly." –Robertino Diodoro

Currently tied for third in North America with 161 wins, Diodoro finished first, second and fourth in this year’s Derby with the three horses he shipped here and took a home a huge chunk of purse money to add to his current purse earnings of $3,802,315.

"It’s certainly easy to see why Diodoro is in the top echelon of trainers in North America," Assiniboia Downs CEO Darren Dunn said. "When he sets them loose on the track, they are ready to win."

Sent off as the crowd favourite in the eight-horse field, Sky Promise paid $7.20, $3.30, $3.10 across the board and anchored a $2 Pick-4 that paid $883.60 after a $60,000 carryover into Derby Day.

Stablemate United Patriot opened up into the final turn, and while he was no match for Sky Promise in the stretch drive, he still held second by 6½-lengths over locally based Pete Marwick, conditioned by 80-year-old veteran trainer Gary Danelson.  Also of note was the fact that the runner-up, United Patriot, was owned by former Assiniboia Downs steward Bob Nokes and his son by the same name.

Diodoro-trainee Gato Guapo finished fourth after making a decent move into the final turn and was followed home in order by local hopefuls Candy Giant, Zack Ridge Road and Eaglebine. Arapahoe Park shipper Fortified Effort finished last after being in contention into the final turn.

Sky Promise was claimed for $40,000 by Diodoro out of his last start at Churchill Downs. He now has one Derby win under his girth and he’s going after another. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Sky Promise was claimed for $40,000 by Diodoro out of his last start at Churchill Downs. He now has one Derby win under his girth and he’s going after another. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

It was the first Manitoba Derby win for jockey Walcott and the second Manitoba Derby win for Diodoro, who won the 2016 Manitoba Derby here with Inside Straight.

And it was about more than just money for Diodoro and his ownership group, which included Rick and Clayton Wiest, Tim Rollingson (R6 Stable) and Norm Tremblay on the winner, as well as Charles Garvey on Gato Guapo and Bob Nokes and his son on United Patriot.

"These are very good guys," Diodoro said. "Very loyal. They’re not clients. They’re friends. We’ve travelled a lot of miles together. Horse sales. Derbies. It makes it kind of emotional. Seeing Norm Tremblay up there (at the trophy presentation). He’s been a big supporter in my business and in my personal life.

"He’s a had a lot of bad luck in racing. So, for him and his wife, Natalie, to come out and for their horse to win, that’s just something special. And Randy Howg, who won this race in 2016, he didn’t even have a horse in this year’s race, but he came out because of how they run this place.

"Everywhere you go, you want win, but Assiniboia Downs is one of the best-run tracks there is. Very accommodating. Very nice people. If the Canadian dollar ever went to par, there’d be 500 more horses here.

Rocp Walcott riding Sky Promise. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Rocp Walcott riding Sky Promise. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

"It’s an older facility, but they keep it clean and it’s very horse friendly. They’ve got a training track. They’ve got grass where you can graze your horses. They’ve got an RV park for the horses."

Sky Promise was claimed for $40,000 by Diodoro out of his last start at Churchill Downs. He now has one Derby win under his girth and he’s going after another.

"A guy that does a lot of work behind the scenes for us, Cody Autrey, spotted Sky Promise," Diodoro said.

"He started watching him and he’d watched the derbies in Canada, so he knows what kind of horses we need to win them. You’ve got to have a healthy horse. And you need a sound horse because you need to be able to train them. You have to be able to get them fit enough to run the distance. Kent Knudsen was the assistant here and Sean Williams readied the horses in Minnesota. They did a great job."

Sky Promise is now headed for the Canadian Derby in Edmonton. Diodoro has won the Canadian Derby three times, but he’d love to win the last one run at Northlands Park. Sky Promise certainly looks like he’ll go the distance, and he’ll probably have one of his stablemates from the Manitoba Derby go with him. The Manitoba hospitality will probably stay here.

"Over 8,000 people under crystal blue skies taking in the historic Manitoba Derby," Dunn said.

"What more could I ask for?"

Rico Walcott (right) is congratulated after riding Sky Promise to a win in the 70th running of the Manitoba Derby. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

Rico Walcott (right) is congratulated after riding Sky Promise to a win in the 70th running of the Manitoba Derby. (John Woods / Winnipeg Free Press)

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