03/21/2013 4:23PM

Fonner: Top sprinters Diamond Joe, Song of Humor clash in Budweiser/Tondi


Two of last year’s most dominant horses in Nebraska will finally meet in a heavily anticipated match-up as Song of Humor and Diamond Joe headline a field of nine older rivals going six furlongs in the $25,000 Budweiser/Tondi Stakes at Fonner Park on Saturday.

Song of Humor has been a dominant force sprinting for trainer Milt Gaede, winning 12 of his last 22 starts. He opened this year’s campaign by overcoming a sluggish start to defend his title in the half-mile Grasmick Stakes on opening weekend. The 5-year-old Song of Humor was narrowly beaten in this race last year when second to The Nutz after leading to deep stretch.

The 4-year-old Diamond Joe was a dominant force of his own last year, winning 9 of his 12 starts, including an eight-race win streak that ended in the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park. Trained by Chuck Turco, Diamond Joe showed his readiness for older company with a powerful five-length win over statebred rivals in the Ogataul Stakes on March 9 over a muddy track.

The pair will likely have a polarizing effect at the windows with each horse having a strong following and either could be considered the favorite for this race. Song of Humor may rate the slight edge at Saturday’s distance with his blazing early speed while Diamond Joe has shown the versatility to lay off the pace and make a strong late run.

The field also includes multiple stakes winners Bach’s Homebrew, Wally Van, and Buffalo Creek Hawk.

Sharing the spotlight on the 11-race card is the $15,000 Baxter Stakes for 3-year-olds going six furlongs. Recent maiden winners Devilishly Flaming, Lazer Red, and Mikey’s Spirit will seek their initial stakes scores.

Model Citizen, trained by Milton Suter, is the likely favorite in his seasonal debut after winning his maiden gong a route on turf at Calder last fall. The maiden Call Me Bubba is multiple stakes-placed and should also merit respect with his late-running style for trainer LaVerne Ballhagen.