Owner/trainer Steve Klesaris, injured in a motor vehicle accident the day before, couldn’t be on hand at Pimlico Race Course Saturday to see his Diabolical win the $200,000 Emirates Airline Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III) (VIDEO) at Pimlico Race Course.
With Mario Pino aboard, even-money choice Diabolical stalked and ran down front-running Talent Search in deep stretch to win the Maryland Sprint Handicap in 1:09.16 to equal the track record for six furlongs set by Northern Wolf in 1990. Talent Search, beaten three-quarters of a length, held well for second, with late-running Semaphore Man 1 1/2 lengths back in third.
Talent Search, with Diabolical in second on his outside, set fractions of :22.58 for the quarter, :44.65 for the half, and :56.53 for five furlongs on a fast track. Diabolical drew even in upper stretch and proved best under strong urging over the stubborn Talent Search.
“He broke well, like a quarter horse, and relaxed nicely down the backstretch, said Pino, who won the 5,901st race of his career. "I wanted to keep the heat on. The inside horse kept shaking free a little at a time, so I wanted to continue putting the pressure on him. So I kept putting pressure on him, and he responded nicely.”
Diabolical, co-owned by Puglisi Stables, earned $120,000 while winning for the seventh time in 18 career starts. He has banked $600,900. The 4-year-old Kentucky-bred by Artax out of Bonnie Byerly, by Dayjur, competed in last year’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I), finishing eighth, but last fall was moved to sprint races. He has responded well, having finished second in the grade I Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash and second in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) in his most recent start.
"He’s faced a lot of tough competition in his last two races," said Jeff Puglisi. "It’s been one war after another. He’s 1-2-3 every race. Steve (Klesaris) had a little fender bender yesterday – actually a little more than that. He’s pretty banged up and sore today. I’m sure he’d have liked to have been here.”
Diabolical paid $4, $2.60 and $2.10. Talent Search, ridden by Ryan Fogelsonger, returned $4 and $3.20. Semaphore Man, Robby Albarado aboard, was $3.40 to show. First Word finished fourth, followed by Celtic Innis, Fleet Valid and Euro Code. Sir Classic Chris scratched.
Klesaris was injured in a head-on crash near Delaware Park, where he is based. He was hospitalized with neck and back pain, according to reports.