04/13/2006 12:00AM

Diplomat Lady wins and Oaks is next

Pat Lang
Diplomat Lady and Cornelio Velasquez win the Grade 2, Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland on Thursday.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - In California, Hollywood Park is the most Eastern-playing of the Western tracks. It is where Diplomat Lady thrived last fall, winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. She did not repeat that effort at Santa Anita this winter, but on Thursday at Keeneland, racing on a sandy surface that also flattered her front-running style, Diplomat Lady returned to that top form.

Diplomat Lady ($9.80) grabbed the lead soon after the start and led virtually all the way to the wire to record a 2 1/4-length victory in the Grade 2, $250,000 for 3-year-old fillies. The win earned her a berth in the Kentucky Oaks on May 5 at Churchill Downs, according to trainer Chris Paasch.

Lake Alice, at 45-1 the longest shot in the 10-horse field, finished second, 4 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Wildcat Bettie B. India, the 6-5 favorite, was fourth. Dance Daily, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, suffered a horrific fracture to her right front leg at the top of the stretch and was euthanized on the racecourse.

"The worst break I've ever seen," said her rider, Robby Albarado, who was not injured.

Diplomat Lady, ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, volleyed with Yachats through fractions of 21.93 seconds for the opening quarter and 44.85 seconds for a half-mile. She began to inch clear at the top of the stretch, passed the six-furlong mark in 1:10.51, and completed the Beard Course - seven furlongs plus 184 feet - in 1:27.97 on the fast main track.

"This track is kind of a sand-based track, which is how Hollywood sets up," said Paasch, who shares training duties with his wife, Bonnie Lord. "We'll look to keep her on the East Coast this summer."

Diplomat Lady, a daughter of Forestry, is owned by Charles Cono, who purchased her as a 2-year-old in training for $400,000. The Beaumont was her fourth win in eight starts.