03/04/2014 2:29PM

Santa Anita: Kilroe Mile a stiff test for Tom's Tribute

Benoit & Associates
Tom's Tribute will face Grade 1 company for the first time in Saturday's Kilroe Mile.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Tom’s Tribute was a game second in the Grade 2 Arcadia Stakes over a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Feb. 1, his stakes debut against older horses. He may be even better when he makes his Grade 1 debut in Saturday’s $350,000 Frank Kilroe Mile on turf.

The 4-year-old Tom’s Tribute impressed jockey Gary Stevens and trainer Jim Cassidy with his training in February.

“Gary said the colt has moved up five or six lengths,” Cassidy said on Monday. “Gary worked the horse every time since he ran. If the horse doesn’t run good, I’ll blame it on him.”

Cassidy was smiling as he made that remark, but there are hopes within the team that Tom’s Tribute can win his first graded stakes in the Kilroe.

“He’s got to improve and I think he will,” Stevens said on Monday. “If I get a trip, he’ll be competitive.”

In the Arcadia Stakes, Tom’s Tribute was third of seven for the first seven furlongs. He moved closer in the final furlong but was beaten 1 1/2 lengths by Winning Prize, who starts in the Kilroe. The Arcadia was Tom’s Tribute’s second start of the meeting. He was sixth in the Grade 2 Sir Beaufort Stakes for 3-year-olds on turf on Dec. 26, running near a fast pace before losing by 1 1/4 lengths to Gervinho.

“I tossed that race out,” Cassidy said. “He was still there at the sixteenth pole.”

Aside from Tom’s Tribute and Winning Prize, the list of top contenders for the Kilroe Mile field includes Silentio, who was third in the Breeders’ Cup Mile last November; Lochte, who won the Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap on Feb. 9; and Suggestive Boy, who was seventh in the BC Mile and won the 2013 Kilroe.

Suggestive Boy was fifth as the 5-2 favorite in the Arcadia Stakes last month, racing wide before losing by four lengths to Winning Prize.

Other candidates for the Kilroe are Appealing Tale, Lakerville, Optimizer, Regally Ready, and Za Approval.

Diodoro’s runners heating up

The hottest trainer at Santa Anita last weekend was Robertino Diodoro, who won four races. Diodoro, who also has a stable at Turf Paradise, has won with 7 of his last 20 starters at Santa Anita, and with 12 of 38 runners at the meeting.

Diodoro, 40, has an 18-horse stable at Santa Anita, and expects his strong meeting to continue.

He was reluctant earlier this week to predict a win for the first-time starter Baker Boys in Thursday’s first race, a $50,000 claimer for California-bred maidens over six furlongs.

“I would have liked to have had another work,” Diodoro said. “We were going to work on Sunday, but didn’t because of the rain. He’s a bit immature.”

Last weekend, Diodoro’s four wins were with claiming horses. Two of them were claimed – Courtside for $8,000 and First Strike for $20,000.

“If you want to win in Southern California, it’s hard to win and not see the claim tag on them,” Diodoro said.

In the last year, the stable’s leading horse has been the 4-year-old Broadway Empire, who won the Oklahoma Derby at Remington Park last October and was ninth in the BC Mile last November. Broadway Empire, who is based at Turf Paradise, will return to racing this spring.

In the meantime, Diodoro said his recent success has not been a surprise.

“Things fell into place,” he said. “I didn’t change one thing. My assistant, Sean Williams, is doing a hell of a job.”

Williams worked for Diodoro at Turf Paradise in recent years, and joined the trainer’s team in Southern California during the Del Mar meeting last summer.

“We’re going to keep it going,” Diordoro said. “I think we can. We have a few new horses and I think that will help.”