07/26/2007 12:00AM

Diabolical rested for Vanderbilt


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - After resisting the allure of the $500,000 Smile Sprint Handicap earlier this month at Calder, the connections of Diabolical hope their patience pays off with a victory in Saturday's Grade 2, $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

Diabolical, a 4-year-old son of Artax trained and partly owned by Steve Klesaris, heads the eight-horse field for the Vanderbilt, a race whose winner earns an automatic berth in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint on Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park.

Having a fresher horse for the summer and fall was the impetus for Klesaris's decision to skip the Smile following Diabolical's solid score in the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap on Preakness Day.

"We wanted to come into this race fresh with a couple of races in the fall," Klesarsis said. "Sometimes Calder, the heat and all that, can be a little much."

Since concentrating exclusively on sprints, Diabolical has 2 wins, 2 seconds and a third from 5 starts. He ended his

3-year-old campaign by running second to BC Sprint winner Thor's Echo in the De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel. This year, he ran third in the Richter Scale and second in the Grade 1 Carter before winning the Maryland Sprint Handicap.

"Silver Wagon ran huge in the Carter to run him down," Klesaris said. "On Preakness Day, it was a big performance, a big figure. He never runs a bad one aside from the [2006] Preakness and one race on soggy turf."

Rain is in the forecast Saturday, and Diabolical is 2 for 2 on wet dirt tracks. He is versatile enough to where he could be on the lead or sit just off the speed of Commentator, Attila's Storm, and Abraaj.

"He can adjust to any way the race unfolds," Klesaris said. "He's fresh, he's sharp, he's ready."

Mario Pino will ride Diabolical, the 120-pound highweight, from post 5.

Having not run since winning the Grade 3 Toboggan Handicap in March, Attila's Storm is also fresh. He was sidelined most of the spring with a quarter crack, but trainer Richard Schosberg believes that problem is behind him. Schosberg also believes Attila's Storm doesn't have to be on the lead.

"He's always been pretty quick out of there, but he's got tracking speed," Schosberg said.

Benny the Bull and Cougar Cat finished one-two in the Iowa Sprint Handicap. Benny the Bull has since changed hands and moved to the barn of Rick Dutrow Jr. His closing style certainly fits this speed-laden field, though this will be his toughest test to date.

Cougar Cat finished second to Fabulous Strike in the Grade 3 Aristides before running second in Iowa. Trainer Ronny Werner says he expects Cougar Cat to be close to the pace, and that he would prefer a dry track.

Commentator will seek to rebound from his third-place finish in the Tom Fool. He is 3 for 4 at Saratoga and 3 for 3 over wet tracks.