08/20/2014 4:35PM

Diabolical off to a good start in New Mexico

Barbara D. Livingston
This year, Diabolical (pictured above) ranks just behind the pensioned Desert God on the New Mexico sire list with $648,764 in progeny earnings through Tuesday.

New Mexico’s breeding program has received a jolt of energy over the past 18 months due to the auspicious early success of Diabolical’s first two crops on the racetrack. The 11-year-old stallion was retired to Fred Alexander’s A&A Ranch in Anthony, N.M., in November 2009 after a globe-trotting racing career during which he won 9 of 32 starts and earned almost $1.5 million. Thirty-one runners from his first crop made it to the races in 2013, and 14 of those won, tying him for second among all North American freshman sires last year. His runners bankrolled $621,319, placing him fourth behind Kentucky stallions Dunkirk, Pioneerof the Nile, and Colonel John.

This year, Diabolical ranks just behind the pensioned Desert God on the New Mexico sire list with $648,764 in progeny earnings through Tuesday. He ranks first in winners with 24 and first in stakes winners with five. All five of those have come at New Mexico tracks in stakes restricted to statebreds. Three of those stakes winners are from Diabolical’s second crop, which augurs well for the stallion’s influence on the state’s breeding sector in the years ahead.

“The response has all been positive; we’re obviously off to a great start [with the stallion],” Alexander said of Diabolical. “We purchased him, spent $100,000 on him, and that’s a lot of money for me. You hold your breath for four years and wait and see what happens, and it’s turned out well. We love him.”

Raider Red, Missing Reba, and You’ve Been Duped each have won one stakes race this year as 2-year-olds, and the filly Diabolical Dame has posted three runner-up efforts in 2014 stakes to lead all Diabolical foals in earnings with $98,460. Diabolical Dame, purchased last August at the Ruidoso select yearling sale by Joe Dee Brooks and raced by Brooks in partnership with Scott Bryant and Derrol Hubbard, has won 3 of 6 starts at 2, with the aforementioned three second-place finishes in stakes. The filly is out of the stakes-winning Devon Lane mare Vipervapor.

Diabolical’s top-earning 3-year-old this year, Mays Or Mantle, may immediately summon forth nostalgic memories for baseball fans of a certain vintage but has also matured into a consistent racehorse for owners and breeders Kirk and Judy Robison. After starting four times without a victory as a 2-year-old last year, the gelding out of the stakes-producing Two Punch mare No Better Time has won 3 of 7 starts at 3, with two seconds and one third, for 2014 earnings of $87,242. He won the Road Runner Handicap at Ruidoso Downs on July 27 in his most recent start and has also placed in two stakes this year.

Another Robison homebred, the filly That’s the Idea, was the runaway earnings leader for Diabolical last year. The filly, out of the winning Boundary mare Complete Package, won her debut at Ruidoso last summer by 15 lengths and went on to capture her next two starts, both stakes, en route to amassing $225,535 in earnings as a juvenile. That’s the Idea has won 2 of 3 starts as a 3-year-old, including the Sierra Starlet Handicap at Ruidoso on July 26.

All of Diabolical’s stakes winners this year, as well as Diabolical Dame, have earned distinction sprinting. New Mexico’s Thoroughbred racing program emphasizes sprints, as befits its location in the heart of the Quarter Horse industry, so it comes as no surprise that Diabolical’s own accomplishments as a sprinter made him an attractive stallion prospect at the outset of his second career. His early runners have vindicated that promise, and according to Alexander, his best hold promise at longer distances as well.

“A plus is that Diabolical’s runners look like they can handle a route of ground and the sprint races, too,” he said. “I guess this is the case everywhere, in that a stallion will get a knock that they can only sire speed horses, or that his runners have to go a route of ground. So, it’s nice to have the combination where you can have one that throws both – we’re awful pleased with that.”

A Kentucky-bred son of champion sprinter Artax and out of the mare Bonnie Byerly, a daughter of English Horse of the Year and champion sprinter Dayjur, Diabolical was purchased by Jeff Puglisi and trainer Steve Klesaris for $300,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. Calder sale of select 2-year-olds in training after posting the co-fastest workout time of 21 2/5 seconds for two furlongs at the presale under-tack show.Diabolical made a sensational first impression that summer at Belmont, winning his 5 1/2-furlong debut by 9 3/4 lengths, and would go on to become a prominent sprinter over the next three seasons for Puglisi and Klesaris. He won five stakes from 2005-07, placed in eight others, and received seven triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures during that span, topped by a 111 earned when winning the 2006 Gallant Bob Handicap at Philadelphia Park.

Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Godolphin purchased Diabolical following his win in the 2007 Grade 2 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga and shipped him to the Middle East to compete at the 2008 Dubai Racing Carnival. He won a Group 3 sprint during that meeting and then was relocated to Europe to race in group stakes on grass. Diabolical had shown turf ability during a few U.S. starts, winning a listed stakes and setting a course record at Monmouth Park for one mile in 1:34.47, and he performed well for Godolphin against Europe’s top turf sprinters during 2008 without winning before he was shipped to the United States for the Breeders’ Cup, where he fell a half-length short to Desert Code in the Turf Sprint. In 2009, Diabolical raced four times in Dubai, Singapore, and England before being retired, placing three times in group stakes on dirt and turf.

Diabolical was bred to 47 mares in 2013, according to The Jockey Club’s annual Report of Mares Bred, and remained in the mid-40s range this year. Alexander said he would keep the stallion in the 40-50 range going forward in order to maintain the quality of his mares.

Several of Diabolical’s top current runners have good extended families that include route horses such as Grade 1 Top Flight Handicap winner Buy the Firm (That’s the Idea’s second dam) and current Grade 2 winner Frac Daddy (a relation to Mays Or Mantle). Diabolical, who stood for a $5,000 fee in 2014, has turf influences in his dam’s-side pedigree that no doubt motivated Sheikh Mohammed to purchase him and redirect him to grass races later in his career, as his second dam, Plenty of Grace, by Roberto, was a multiple graded stakes winner on turf and a half-sister to champion turf female Soaring Softly. This element could prove enticing to breeders in the years ahead, with possibilities for Diabolical’s runners on nearby courses such as Turf Paradise’s in Arizona.