Trainer Diodoro ruled off at track over drug issue

The cloud under which trainer Robertino Diodoro began the Oaklawn meeting settled again over the track Friday, threatening to overshadow its marquee race.

On the eve of the 88th Arkansas Derby, the two-time local champion was cited for using a banned substance and his horses were ruled off the grounds as of today.

Facing up to a two-year suspension, Diodoro has been suspended until the case has been reviewed by the Horseracing Integrity and Welfare Unit's Internal Adjunction Panel and then by a federal administrative case, reported. The trainer has hired Little Rock attorney John Holleman for representation. Holleman did not respond to the website's request for comment.

The infraction against Diodoro, first posted on the HIWU website Friday though findings date to March 13, regard Levothyroxine, a thyroid supplement and synthetic version of a hormone banned by HIWU after years of overuse in the racing industry. Thyroid hormones affect oxygen consumption, regulate the syntheses of various proteins, control body-heat production and stimulate metabolism, Molly Rollins writes on

Track president Louis Cella told BloodHorse that the substance was uncovered during routine inspection of the trainer's barn at Oaklawn. Diodoro was told to leave the grounds immediately and that all of his horses would need to vacate the grounds by today, Cella said. HISA rules allow Diodoro to race his horses previously entered Friday and Saturday, but he is prohibited from entering further horses in any race.

Diodoro is second in the standings with 27 victories at an 18-percent clip.

"Because of our stewards, the punishment we gave Diodoro was a 30-day suspension, which he did do," Cella said. "We gave him stalls this year under the understanding that he was aware he would not get another strike. He has a full barn, he has a lot of horses, and several different owners, and we thought it was only fair to give him another chance, so to speak. And we tell that to everyone. At Oaklawn, we are going to understand and listen to you and see if there is a reason to give someone a second chance, but that's it."

Winner of two races Friday including the $200,000 Temperence Hill with Masqueparade, Diodoro has Mockingbird winner Midshipman's Dance, in Saturday's Grade 2 $750,000 Fantasy for 3-year-old fillies. Holleman owns the Temperence Hill winner and races Midshipman's Dance in partnership.

Diodoro, the track's leading trainer in 2020 and last year, began the 2023-24 local season under suspension regarding an excessive total of total carbon dioxide in a horse's blood after an Oaklawn stake last year. Fined $1,000 by the Arkansas Racing Commission, he served 15 days, Dec. 8-22, with 15 days stayed on the condition that no Class A or Class B medication violation occurs in any racing jurisdiction within 365 days from May 15, 2023.

Levothyroxine is classified as penalty Class C by the Association of Racing Commissioners International.

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