07/04/2013 11:22AM

Northlands Park: Diodoro holds strong pair in Broadway Empire, Najran Breeze for Ky Alta

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Trainer Robertino Diodoro has a couple of reasons to be excited about Saturday’s $50,000 Ky Alta Handicap at Northlands Park. Diodoro will saddle two of the six horses entered in the one-mile feature for 3-year-olds, and either Broadway Empire or Najran Breeze would be heavily favored if the other one was not running. They are owned separately and are not coupled in the wagering.

“It’s 72 hours before the race, but knock on wood, they are both doing extremely well right now,” Diodoro said Wednesday afternoon.

It is hard to separate the two.

Broadway Empire was sensational when he won his debut by more than 16 lengths in a maiden special weight race at Turf Paradise on March 11, and he came back with another strong performance, finishing second in the $71,000 Came Home Stakes at seven furlongs at Betfair Hollywood Park on May 11. He was very head strong stalking a fast pace in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes on June 2 when he stretched out to 1 1/16 miles. After making a threatening move at the top of the stretch, he tired and finished sixth. The winner, Tiz a Minister, came from last, so it was a better race than it looks on paper.

Diodoro was a bit surprised by Najran Breeze’s 12-length romp in the $50,000 Western Canada Handicap in his first start at Northlands on June 15. He was a maiden going into the race, but with Nate Smith aboard, he broke sharply and just kept widening his advantage in the six-furlong race.

“He had trouble in all of his races in Southern California, and we did a throat operation on him after his last start at Santa Anita,” Diodoro said. “I thought he would run a good race in his first start here, but it was hard to see that kind of performance coming.”

Diodoro was thrilled with the way the pair worked June 27. Broadway Empire earned a bullet for his five-furlong move in one-minute flat. Najran Breeze had the fastest half-mile, 46.80 seconds, and, according to Diodoro, he galloped out five furlongs in 58 and change.

They both have speed, and Diodoro said he was not giving Rico Walcott, who rides Broadway Empire, or Smith any instructions on how to ride them.

“They are both smart riders, and I am going to just let them do their own thing,” Diodoro said.

If they do hook up early, it could set up nicely for Just Win Baby, who rallied to finish fifth in the Affirmed. Just Win Baby will be making his first start at Northlands for trainer Tim Rycroft, and from the looks of his bullet four-furlong move in 47.80 last Monday, he appears to be coming into the race in excellent shape.