Pedigree Analysis: Diabolical

Inbreeding to Mr. Prospector through champions Conquistador Cielo and Gold Beauty has been rare. But in recent A. G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) winner Diabolical, the cross has proven golden.

Mr. Prospector scored a rare double in 1982, when two of his progeny won Eclipse Award championships, making him only the 10th stallion in North American racing history to sire two or more divisional champions in the same year. One was champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo. The other was champion sprinter Gold Beauty, the second 3-year-old filly ever to top the sprint division (the first was the phenomenal Ta Wee, who was champion sprinter at 3 and 4).

Inbreeding to Mr. Prospector through these two champions has been rare which is not surprising, particularly in the case of Gold Beauty, who had only five foals, none of whom became top sires. But in recent A. G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) winner Diabolical, the cross has proven golden and may soon glitter all the more brightly if the colt can go on to grade I glory in the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) or Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I).

Diabolical descends from Conquistador Cielo through his best son, Marquetry, whose 10 wins from 36 starts included grade I scores in the 1991 Hollywood Gold Cup, the 1992 Eddie Read Handicap, and the 1993 Meadowlands Cup Handicap. Still active at Stonewall Farm as of this writing, Marquetry has been a fairly consistent sire of winners but has been less consistent about passing on his own racing class; his 29 stakes winners represent just 3.8% of his named foals, and he has sired only seven graded stakes winners. His best sons, however, were first-rate speedsters: Artax, who captured the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and with it honors as U.S. champion sprinter in 1999, and Squirtle Squirt, who accomplished the same feats in 2001.

Squirtle Squirt is now in Japan, but Artax is standing at Keane Stud in New York. A very fast horse whose time of 1:07.89 for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint officially tied the Gulfstream Park six-furlong track record of 1:07-4/5 set by his own great-grandsire, Mr. Prospector, Artax has been even less consistent than Marquetry as a sire. From 324 foals in his first five crops of racing age, Artax has sired just six stakes winners (1.9%). Diabolical is now his leading money winner with a bankroll of $750,900, but Artax’s best runner in terms of level of race won is Friendly Michelle, winner of the 2004 Prioress Stakes (gr. I).

Although Artax stayed well enough to win graded events at up to 1-1/16 miles, he appears to have done best when mated to mares with a speed sire close up in the pedigree. He also seems to have done best with mares whose pedigrees reinforce multiple good strains in his own pedigree, particularly Mr. Prospector (through daughters) and Never Bend. Inbreeding to Rough’n Tumble through In Reality has not worked well so far, however.

At first glance, Diabolical’s distaff side might appear well suited for producing a turf miler or stayer rather than a good dirt sprinter. His third dam, Wings of Grace (by the staying Key to the Mint), won the 1981 Boiling Springs Handicap (gr. IIIT) at 1-1/16 miles; his second dam, Plenty of Grace (by Roberto) took the themes of grass and dirt further, winning the 1-1/4 mile Yellow Ribbon Invitational Stakes (gr. IT) in 1990.

But the picture changes with Bonnie Byerly, the dam of Diabolical, whose sole racetrack placing from three starts came in a sprint on dirt. She certainly fulfills the requirement Artax seems to have for a speed sire close up in his mates’ pedigrees, for she is by the great sprinter Dayjur.

So brilliant as a 3-year-old that he was named 1990 Horse of the Year in England despite never having raced beyond six furlongs, Dayjur is as regally bred as one could wish. By the great sire Danzig out of Gold Beauty, he was bred to run like a blue streak and did so. Unfortunately, his stud career has not quite lived up to either his pedigree or his racing ability. Although he has had his moments, siring Irish champion juvenile filly Asfurah, Brazilian champion miler Eyjur, and Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I) winner Hayil among others, by and large he must be considered rather disappointing given the opportunities he has been accorded at Shadwell Farm.

As is often the case when a stallion has a good number of daughters from strong female families, however, Dayjur has had some success as a broodmare sire, his daughters’ progeny including 2006 Prix de Diane Hermes (French Oaks, Fr-I) winner Confidential Lady, 2002 Prix Morny (Fr-I) winner Elusive City, 2005 Personal Ensign Stakes (gr. I) winner Shadow Cast, and 2007 Bing Crosby Handicap (gr. I) winner In Summation.

Diabolical, of course, still has a racing career to wrap up before he can be considered as a prospective stallion, and his opportunities will probably be based more on his racing performance than his pedigree, which is not exactly the height of fashion. Nonetheless, some of the better genes of some very talented ancestors seem to have found their way into his makeup, giving hope that, when the time comes, he will be able to pass that class along.