08/20/2010 11:49AM

Diodoro well on his way to winning first training title at Northlands


EDMONTON, Alberta – Trainer Robertino Diodoro is on track to win his first training title at Northlands Park. He currently sits on top of the standings with 39 wins, eight more than Jim Meyaard and Greg Tracy.

Diodoro, 36, finished second to Meyaard last year and was also second behind Red Smith in 2008. It is unlikely Meyaard will catch Diodoro this year due to the number of horses in Diodoro’s stable.

“All together I have about 75 horses in training,” said Diodoro. “Most of them are here but some are on the farm getting ready to go to Arizona and I have six at Assiniboia Downs.”

Diodoro picked up quite a few horses when the powerful Riversedge Stables moved its horses to his barn after Tracy had his license revoked due to a positive test for cocaine. Riversedge is second behind Bar None Ranches in terms of money won at the current meet. Diodoro helped all of Tracy’s owners make the transition to new barns and when the dust had settled he was left with Riversedge.

“It is a sad deal,” said Diodoro. “Greg is a good friend of mine and he’s got a tough road ahead of him. The last time I talked to him he was going into rehab and hopefully things will work out for him.”

Diodoro has been coming to the race track his whole life.

“My grandfather always worked at the track, as a valet, you name it, and he was also a trainer,” said Diodoro. “I got started as a trainer when I took over some of his horses in 1995.”

If Diodoro had been willing to spend a little more time perfecting his slap shot he may have ended up having a career in hockey. He seemed to be on his way when he realized he would have to make a choice between the two professions.

“The only two things I have done my whole life is horse racing and play hockey,” said Diodoro. “When I was 15 or 16 I thought I might be good enough to make it to the NHL and naïve enough to think I could do both. As I was moving up in hockey, I made it to tier-2, I realized the commitment level changed. I thought I could play hockey for six months and race the rest of the year. I loved racing too much to make the commitment needed to continue moving forward in hockey.”

Diodoro credits his success to good help and great owners that are willing to buy decent horses. His wife, Nikki, who exercises about half of the horses in the barn, is certainly a full partner in the operation. He met Nikki at Hastings in 2002.

“When he was there he claimed Eternal Secrecy and he claimed me too,” said Nikki.

Diodoro thanks Trapper Barroby, who was the agent for Pedro Alvarado, for the successful claim.

“I claimed Eternal Secrecy for $25,000 for Randy Howg and then ran him back in a little stake and Pedro rode him and he finished second,” said Diodoro. “I had to get back home because I had a job selling Christmas trees before I went to Phoenix to race for the winter. Trapper told me he could win the closing day stakes. So I left him with Nikki, who I really didn’t know that well but she was hanging around with Kelly and Kathy Rycroft, who I was stabled next to. The funny part is the night before we entered the race Trapper calls me at about 11 while I’m out in the freezing cold loading a big semi with Christmas trees and tells me Pedro can’t ride the horse because Terry Jordan was entering Find Our Star. Randy was livid and wanted to scratch him but I talked him into running and he won with Dave Wilson riding.”

Diodoro is a hands-on trainer and he obviously loves his work and some of the traditions that seem to be disappearing from the race track. He is doing his best to keep one of the traditions alive.

“We’re well known for having parties or get-togethers whenever we win a stakes or even when we’re just running in a big race,” said Diodoro. “That used to happen all the time in the barn area but now it seems to be lost. We have someone bringing in a bunch of chili for the derby and we’re just going to enjoy being part of a great event.”

After Northlands closes Oct. 11 Diodoro is heading south, where he will be based at Turf Paradise.

“It is like our second home now,” said Diodoro. “We spend half the year there and we’ve met a lot of good people and made a lot of new friends. It also helps to be winning races. We also have about 10 or 12 horses we’re lining up for Santa Anita.”

Last year, Diodoro won 29 races in Phoenix, good for fifth in the standings. He figures to build on that this year and from the way his stable is growing he should significantly add to his career total of 506 wins.