04/27/2010 11:00PM

Bella Diamante on the rise for Oaks


GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Bella Diamante has gotten her second wind, literally, just in time for Friday afternoon's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks. The race will be her second start since minor throat surgery, and she will be out to build off an eye-catching allowance score at Oaklawn on April 2.

Bella Diamante, who last weekend shipped from her Lone Star Park base to Churchill Downs, showed a good deal of promise early in her career. She ran second in three consecutive route stakes, including the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Princess in December.

The record put her on target for Oaklawn's series for 3-year-old fillies that culminates with the Grade 2 Fantasy, but in both of her preps for the race, the $75,000 Martha Washington in February and the Grade 3 Honeybee in March, she finished seventh. In the first prep, she simply had a nightmare trip in which she was forced to check sharply, trainer Allen Milligan said. In the second, the excuse was not as apparent.

"She was making a huge move and just flattened out," Milligan said. "We scoped her after the race and were told she was having trouble displacing" her palate.

Milligan said Bella Diamante had a myectomy to address the problem, which compromised her breathing. She passed on the Fantasy and instead ran in a six-furlong allowance, winning with startling ease in a quick 1:10.40.

"I just needed to do something to get her confidence back after the myectomy, so we put her in a sprint," Milligan said.

He also added a figure-eight noseband to her equipment, which keeps a horse's mouth closed and bit properly placed, and was able to line up jockey Garrett Gomez, who was at Oaklawn for a stakes race. Gomez guided Bella Diamante to the sweeping, last-to-first win for which she earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 82.

"It sent chills down my spine down the lane," Milligan said. "That's the easiest I've ever seen a horse win."

Since then, Bella Diamante has worked five furlongs in a bullet 58 seconds at Lone Star. The move came by herself, on a track rated good, on April 23.

Mike Smith has the mount in the Oaks, which will be a sentimental race for Milligan, 43. His father, longtime trainer Eddie Milligan Sr., died in February, but not before knowing about Bella Diamante. Eddie's oldest son, Eddie Milligan Jr., gave the filly her early training lessons at his Texas training center before she was sent to Allen and raced three times at Delta, a winter base for the elder Milligan.

"Dad said, 'You've got a real nice filly. You've got to go on with her,' " said Allen, who has asked Eddie to assist him at Churchill. "I'm glad to have my brother and my sister with me this week. Eddie's going to wear dad's lucky sports coat Friday."

Bella Diamante is by Lost Soldier and from the stakes-winning mare Sharons Song. She races for Lone Star Stables, a partnership led by her breeder, Weldon Johnson Jr. of Rowlett, Texas.

Heat got to Jonesboro in Texas Mile

Jonesboro dropped out of last weekend's Grade 3, $200,000 Texas Mile on the final turn, and after the race an explanation emerged for his uncharacteristic effort. He was found to have symptoms of heat stroke, according to trainer Randy Morse. Jonesboro, who won last year's Texas Mile, finished a distant seventh Saturday under regular rider Cliff Berry.

"Cliff said he was done at the half-mile pole, and when he got back to the barn he was breathing like a horse that hadn't run in two years," Morse said.

"We'll get him built back up. It's something we can handle."

Morse will see how Jonesboro trains before committing to the Grade 3, $300,000 Lone Star Park Handicap on May 31.

Temperatures have been up and down here, hitting the 80s last Saturday.