Steve Klesaris trains and partially owns the son of Artax with Puglisi Stables. The 4-year-old colt earned a spot in the TVG Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Oct. 27 under the "Win and You're In" format for Saturday's Saratoga stakes, but Klesaris wasn't ready to look that far ahead.
“This is one step at a time," Klesaris explained. "This race and the Vosburgh is next. This was a good group of sprinters here. Any of them could have run a powerful race on any given day. I liked the spot that we were in. I felt it was going to be heated up front, and it was.
"Those two up front set a torrid pace, and he came late on them. Diabolical is so versatile, he can sit any trip the rider pleases. It’s always good to set up a long-term plan and have it fall into place. You see so many sprinters fall by the wayside. It’s tough for them to stay healthy. So, the long-term plan is critical. That’s why we take one race at a time.”
The $400,000 Vosburgh (gr. I) is at Belmont Park at six furlongs on Sept. 30.
The stalking Diabolical, the 5-2 favorite, ran the six-furlong Vanderbilt distance in an excellent 1:08 3/5 after Commentator, pressed hard by Attila's Storm, set the stage with fractions of :21 3/5 and :44 2/5. After that, the field was six abreast leaving the furlong marker. But Diabolical finished best to defeat Attila's Storm and John Velazquez in a long drive to the wire, with Simon Pure, ridden by Garrett Gomez, rallying for third, 1 3/4 lengths farther back. Diabolical carried co-high weight of 120 pounds.
“You couldn’t set up a better trip," Pino said of Diabolical. "He’s a great horse to ride. He does everything right.
"The race set up perfectly for him. He layed off those two horses, and Steve had him perfect. It was just a matter of when to move. I said, `I’m not going to move until I have to,' and when I asked him, he took off. He’s a pure sprinter.”
Diabolical has been rested since winning the Maryland Sprint Handicap (gr. III) at Pimlico May 19. The chestnut was tried in some route and turf races last year but has been extremely sharp since Klesaris decided to concentrate on sprints last fall. In six starts since, Diabolical has three wins, two seconds, and a third, including a runner-up showing to Thor's Echo in the DeFrancis Dash (gr. I) at Laurel Park Nov. 25 and the seven-furlong Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct April 7.
Overall, Diabolical has won eight times in 19 starts with earnings of $750,900. He earned $150,000 Saturday.
The 5-2 choice paid $7, $4., and $3.10.
Attila's Storm, making his first start since a grade III win in March for trainer Richard Schosberg, returned $9.80 and $6.20.
"I think he sent a message today that he’s ready again," Schosberg said. "We don’t know how we’re going to get there (BC Sprint), he runs so well fresh, but we’ve got plenty of time. We opened up the blinkers on him because he waits a bit. He’s real good right now.”
Simon Pure, moved to trainer Steve Asmussen from the barn of D. Wayne Lukas by owner Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust prior to the race, was $5.20 was to show.
Benny the Bull finished fourth, followed by Cougar Cat, Commentator, Saint Anddan, and Abraaj.