Diamond King proved best by nearly a length in Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park and guaranteed a berth to the second leg of the Triple Crown, the 143rd Preakness (G1) on May 19. Unraced since a third in the Swale (G3) in early February, the sophomore son of Quality Road was ready to go off the 77-day layoff for trainer John Servis and owners Cash is King, D.J. Stable and L C Racing.
“That’s the plan,” Cash is King managing partner Chuck Zacney said of the $1.5 million Preakness at Pimlico. “That’s why we aimed for this (race). We never lost faith in this horse.”
With regular rider Frankie Pennington, Diamond King tracked pacesetter Noble Commander through splits of :23.93, :48:33 and 1:13.27 and overhauled his rival entering the stretch. He led by about two lengths with a sixteenth of a mile remaining and dug in when challenged late by runner-up Holland Park to prevail.
Off as the 2-1 favorite among nine runners, Diamond King completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.31.
“I’m tickled to death. It was very impressive,” Servis said. “I was a little worried about the distance off a long layoff and he’s never really been that far because the only time he was he had that incident. I thought he did great. He handled himself well, relaxed really good, got to loafing a little bit in the stretch which I like to see because that tells me there’s more there. I’m happy with him.”
Holland Park wound up 1 ¼ lengths better than Noble Commander, who held third by 3 ¼ lengths over American Lincoln. Takedown came next and was followed by 5-2 second choice Still Having Fun, V.I.P. Code, Not Fake News and Dynamic Asset. Navy Commander and Split Verdict were scratched.
Bred in Kentucky by JSM Equine, Diamond is King was purchased for $235,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Maryland May 2-year-old sale. He’s out of the stakes-placed Malibu Moon mare Akron Moon.
Under the direction of Robert Reid Jr., Diamond King won his first two starts at Parx but clipped heels and dislodged Pennington when making his stakes debut in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. He earned his first stakes tally when concluding his juvenile campaign with a victory in the 7-furlong Heft at Laurel in late December.
Leonard Green’s D.J. Stable purchased an interest after the Heft and Diamond King was transferred to Servis. The Tesio marked the bay colt’s second start of the year and he’s now earned $222,600 from a 6-4-0-1 record.
“We were looking forward to the next race (after the Swale) and he got sick right before the race,” Zacney said. “He did everything right going into this race. I guess the only concern going into this race was the mile and an eighth, but there’s certainly no doubt after that.”
“He did it very nicely. He settled in nice going the mile and an eighth, which was fantastic,” Pennington added. “When it was time to go, I asked him and he gave it to me.”