Racing Spotlight: Diamond Oops, Joe Talamo, Todd Pletcher
Racing Spotlight is a weekly series that highlights a horse, jockey, and trainer with insightful information to help our players be informed.
This week, we look at Diamond Oops, who seeks a second win in the Smile Sprint at Gulfstream; Joe Talamo, who seeks to defend his leading rider title at Ellis Park; and Todd Pletcher, who leads all North American trainers in graded stakes wins for 2021.
Horse spotlight: Diamond Oops
Diamond Oops has a chance to shine anew in the Smile Sprint S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, a race the six-year-old gelding won in 2019. The bay is sparkling from a victory in the June 5 Hollywood Lakes H. on the same oval, which was his sixth win at Hallandale Beach and the eighth of his career.
Regular rider Florent Geroux has the mount for trainer Patrick Biancone on the late runner who has won on both turf and dirt.
“He just does his job. He’s so versatile, he can do anything, but I do feel like six furlongs on dirt is his niche. That’s truly where he belongs,” said Andie Biancone, daughter and assistant to her trainer father. “We’re really going to focus on that and try to get him to the Breeders’ Cup (Sprint [G1]). We have the wonderful Smile coming up, so hopefully that will be his next win. He loves Gulfstream.”
In his season debut, he finished a late-rallying fourth in his attempt to take consecutive editions of the Twin Spires Turf Sprint.
In the Smile, he faces 2020 Florida Derby (G1) runner-up Shivaree, stakes winner Chance It, and graded-placed Double Crown and Frosted Grace.
Diamond Oops is owned by the partnership of Diamond 100 Racing Club, Amy Dunne, D P Racing, and Patrick Biancone Racing.
He is the son of dual champion Lookin at Lucky, whose resume featured victories in eight graded stakes, including the 2010 Preakness (G1).
The Smile is one of two graded stakes races comprising Saturday’s Summit of Speed card highlighted by the $350,000 Princess Rooney (G2), a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” race for the Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).
Jockey spotlight: Joe Talamo
Ellis Park began its 99th season Sunday, and a deep colony of jockeys compete for record purses that will be awarded throughout the 31-day meet. Joe Talamo hopes to retain his leading rider title. Last year, he topped the standings with 20 wins and $746,716 in purse earnings. He won at 19% and finished in the money at 46%.
“I love it there,” Talamo said. “We had a great time. It was really competitive, some really good jockeys there, some really good trainers running horses there.”
Ellis Park was a new circuit for Talamo, who moved his tack from California in 2020 to compete in Arkansas and Kentucky. The move was lucrative: Talamo closed out the year with over $8 million in purses, his best since 2014.
2021 got off to a rockier start. In January, he tested positive for COVID-19 and missed the first two weeks of the Oaklawn season, and didn’t regain the momentum he had in the 2020 meet. The 2021 Ellis meet started with a better omen: he won his first race of the season aboard There Goes Harvard.
Talamo is excited about the increased purses and horses at Ellis, but he recognizes he faces more competition. Many jockeys he rode with at Churchill will join him at the "Pea Patch." Past meet leaders Corey Lanerie, Rafael Bejarano, James Graham, and Jon Court are on the roster, along with Florent Geroux, Julien Leparoux, and Drayden Van Dyke.
The first two stakes are set for July 4: the Ellis Park Turf for fillies and mares and the Dade Park Dash for three-year-olds.
Talamo was featured on Animal Planet’s reality show "Jockeys." He is married and has two young sons.
Trainer spotlight: Todd Pletcher
Scoring two graded stakes wins on his birthday, Todd Pletcher pulled ahead of Bob Baffert to lead all North American trainers in graded stakes wins in 2021. Pletcher has 19, Baffert has 17, and Brad Cox, who has amassed the most in graded stakes purses, has 15.
Pletcher’s birthday wins came in Belmont’s Mother Goose S. (G2) with 18-1 longshot Zaajel and in Churchill’s Bashford Manor S. (G3) with Double Thunder, who won by 4 3/4 lengths. These wins bring his career total to 714 graded stakes, which includes 166 Grade 1s.
This weekend, he sends out undefeated Happy Saver and graded stakes-placed Moretti in Belmont’s Suburban S. (G2).
Pletcher, 54, was an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas before going out on his own in 1996. Throughout his career, he has won at a 23% rate and has finished in the trifecta 52% of the time.
He is the all-time leading trainer by earnings, with over $407 million, and ranks seventh by wins. He has won a record seven Eclipse Awards.
Pletcher won the Kentucky Derby (G1) with Super Saver (2010) and Always Dreaming (2017), and the Belmont S. (G1) with Rags to Riches (2007), Palace Malice (2013), and Tapwrit (2017).
He will be inducted into racing’s Hall of Fame in August.