05/19/2004 12:00AM

Diego already making a name for himself


SHAKOPEE, Mn. - Among the new faces at Canterbury Park this summer is jockey Iram V. Diego, who came to Minnesota from Chicago.

Diego didn't take long to make an impression on Canterbury regulars, splitting the third race field on opening night with 53-1 longshot Clearly a King, his first ride of the meeting.

Diego returned in Friday's sixth race and just missed aboard 26-1 Winter Lady. After riding two more longshots on the Saturday card, Diego broke through in the 10th race, guiding Lord Gold to a nose victory in a six-furlong claiming event, paying a $24.60 and keying an exacta that returned $433.20.

Diego returned Sunday to finish second with each of his first two mounts, then captured the third race aboard 16-1 maiden Blink His Gone. His early success at the three-day-old Canterbury Park meeting suggests Diego should be riding some shorter-priced contenders in the near future.

* The Sampson Racing operation had an up-and-down weekend.

Trainer Mike Biehler trains many runners for the family of Canterbury Park Chairman Curtis Sampson, and the meet began the right way for the connections when Biehler uncorked Lt. Sampson in Friday's third race. Under rider Derek Bell, Lt. Sampson beat Minnesota-bred maidens by more than nine lengths in his career debut.

Tragedy struck the following day, however, when the connections sent Minnesota Derby winner Tricky Pick Six to run. Racing as part of an entry in an allowance held only minutes after the Preakness Stakes, Tricky Pick Six was pulled up by Bell shortly after the start. After falling to the track, veterinarians were unable to revive Tricky Pick Six, who suffered from an apparent heart attack.