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Barn Notes: Friday, June 15, 2012
ARLINGTON JOCKEY INOSENCIO DIEGO HITTING THE BIG TIME LATELY
Whoever it was that bought an Arlington Park JackPOT High-5 ticket worth more than $1.1 million earlier this month owes a big debt of gratitude to jockey Inosencio Diego.
It was Diego, aboard Clabor Mor Stable's Big Bad Mike in Arlington's last race of the day June 8, who avoided tight quarters at the start, more traffic problems going into the first turn and then encouraged his horse to gain steadily and snatch victory by a head at the wire.
For the one lucky bettor, Diego's perseverance with Big Bad Mike was largely responsible for his or her newfound status as a millionaire. The winning ticket worth $1,115,184.20 registered an all-time payout for an Arlington Park wager.
For trainer John Haran, conditioner of Big Bad Mike, it helped him double his own win total from last summer at Arlington – with more than two thirds of the 2012 local session still to come.
However, for the 33-year-old Diego, Big Bad Mike's win helped him stay close to a top five ranking in the local jockey standings this summer following a 10th-place finish last year.
"I also had my share of wins at Oaklawn last winter," said Diego, "and now I'm having a good meet here. I'm very grateful for what I've done so far this season and I'm glad to be back in Chicago. I've always felt like Chicago was home for me. I was born in Guerrero, Mexico, but when I first came to this country in 1997 I started galloping horses at Arlington for trainer Tom Swearingen. I also rode my first career winner at Arlington on a horse named Sneakers for trainer Steve Asmussen.
"Bill Gavidia (former jockey and former clerk of scales at Arlington) helped me a lot when I first came to Arlington," Diego said. "He was good friends with (Hall of Fame jockey) Angel Cordero, Jr. in New York, and they suggested I go to New York to ride there while I had the 'bug.' While I was in New York I finished second in a stakes race aboard a nice filly named Foil for (Hall of Fame) trainer Allen Jerkens. He was definitely a good guy to ride for and I'm grateful that he gave me that shot.
"But then I got hurt and couldn't ride for about a year and a half because I broke several vertebrae in my back." Diego said. "It took me a long time to recover from that. I wasn't sure for a long time I could ever ride again because it took me a long time to get back in shape. I came back to the Midwest and began galloping horses in Kentucky, and when I was able to ride again I rode horses at Churchill and Ellis Park and Turfway for several years.
"Then I was in another spill at Turfway and broke my right leg and my collarbone," Diego said, "so I was out of action for another seven months.
"I came back to Chicago and started riding again at Hawthorne three years ago," said Diego. "Winning races is a lot of fun for me and I enjoy riding here. I haven't ridden 1,000 winners yet because of all my time off but I'm probably pretty close to 900 by now. Ben Allen is my agent here and I'm very happy with him. He works hard for me. We're trying to ride a little bit for everybody but I've been riding a lot of horses for Ingrid Mason. She is a very good trainer and she has some very nice horses, so that makes my job a lot easier. I'm very proud to be part of her team. We seem to have a lot of success together.
"So far, I've only won two $100,000 stakes races in Indiana during my career," Diego concluded, "but – hopefully – some more stakes wins are on their way now that things are going so well for me this year."