When Diamond Oops was a young racing prospect, his ill-favored appearance made him a horse no one wanted.
When he reached the races as a juvenile and enjoyed surprising early success, he reverted to a runner with seemingly little future on the racetrack when he tore the digital super flexor tendon in his left foreleg. Veterinarians predicted he would never be the same – if he ever ran again.
Well, Diamond Oops made it all the way back, proving that looks can be deceiving and there is no overestimating the value of heart. He has earned more than $1.3 million as a multiple graded stakes winner of eight of 22 career starts. He is bidding to make his third appearance at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships when they are held at Del Mar on Nov. 5-6.
Bred by Kin Hui Racing Stables, the gelded 6-year-old son of Lookin At Lucky received his name because it initially appeared nature had made a mistake when it came to him.
He did not attract a bid when he was offered at Keeneland’s November breeding stock sale in 2015, leaving it to trainer Patrick Biancone and his daughter, Andie, to do what they could with him. Patrick compared him to an awkward teenager who was all arms and legs and had yet to grow into his body. According to Andie, he looked more like a donkey than a Thoroughbred when he arrived at their barn in South Florida.
Patrick had trained Whywhywhy, a multiple graded-stakes winner that was Diamond Oops’ broodmare sire as well as Patriotic Diva, his second dam (maternal grandmother). That encouraged him to believe there might be more to this 2-year-old than met the eye. Diamond Oops represents the third of four generations of the family to come under his care.
“Any bit of quality they have, they want to give it to you. They try, try, try,” Patrick said. “I always say, ‘There are no cheaters in that family.’ ”
Diamond Oops wasted no time showing he would try, try, try. He won his debut, going five furlongs on dirt on June 1, 2017 at Gulfstream Park, and added two stakes victories in his 2-year-old campaign. Patrick was so encouraged that he suggested to his daughter that a different name might have been more appropriate: Oopswehaveadiamond.
Just when the connections began dreaming of the Kentucky Derby, those hopes were dashed. Although Diamond Oops relishes a muddy surface, he came up lame after training in the slop one morning. The discovery of a torn tendon came with a grim prognosis.
“The veterinarians told us this particular injury is very difficult to come back from, that the likelihood of making it back to the races was very slim and, if he did make it back, he would surely not be stakes caliber,” recalled Andie, an assistant to her father. “He would not be at the same level.”
Diamond Oops tries too hard to be mediocre. While he made only one start at 3, he displayed extraordinary versatility at 4 by finishing second in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap on dirt at Saratoga and following that with a robust runner-up effort in the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland, both Grade 1 races. That led to his first Breeders’ Cup appearance, an eighth-place finish in the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile at Santa Anita in 2019.
He captured Grade 2 races on turf and dirt last season as a prelude to a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, a race in which he lost precious ground due to a wide trip. He continues to be a force at 6 and most recently ran second in the $1 million FanDuel Turf Sprint, 2 ½ lengths behind talented Gear Jockey, on Sept. 11 at Kentucky Downs. He is being pointed to the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland, a race he won last year, as a possible steppingstone to another crack at the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar.
Diamond Oops carries himself as if he is proud of who he is and what he has accomplished. “He thinks he is the president of Palm Meadows,” said Andie, referring to the training center in Boynton Beach, Fla. “He wants to be top dog all the time. If we have 2-year-old colts coming in, he literally tries to boss them around.’’
He possesses the same attitude once he springs from the starting gate. “He is so competitive and he loves what he does so much. That’s how he was able to overcome his injury,” said Andie, who began galloping him two years ago. “The heart he has, it’s crazy.”
Patrick has limited Diamond Oops to four starts this season. Although he thinks the gelding is at his best when he sprints on dirt, he chooses turf races whenever possible in an effort to take care of his legs. He refers to him as a “family horse” because of the affection everyone has for him.
Patrick thinks Diamond Oops may have two solid seasons left. He is convinced it is in the horse’s best interests to continue to allow him to race.
“These horses, when they know what it’s like to be a champion, when they go back to the farm they don’t like it so much,” Patrick said. “They like the attention, they like the camera, they like all these kinds of things.”
Patrick noted that Whitmore won last year’s Sprint as a 7-year-old, a vivid example of how long horses that thrive on competition can excel on the racetrack.