07/28/2007 12:00AM

Diabolical runs down Attila's Storm


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Diabolical executed the first stage of trainer Steve Klesaris's three-pronged, long-range plan successfully on Saturday by outfinishing a game Attila's Storm to win the Grade 2, $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap by a half-length at Saratoga.

Attila's Storm, making his first start since March 10, was part of a hot early pace but was still second by 1 3/4 lengths over Simon Pure, who nosed out Benny the Bull for third.

The victory was the second straight graded stakes score for Diabolical, who won the Grade 3 Maryland Sprint Handicap at Pimlico on Preakness Day.

More importantly, the win earns Diabolical a spot in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint, to be run Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park. The Vanderbilt was part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series, a six-day,

24-race series that awards automatic berths to select Breeders' Cup races. Orientate (2002) and Speightstown (2004) won the Vanderbilt en route to victories in the BC Sprint.

The Vanderbilt was also part of a three-race summer/fall campaign Klesaris has mapped out for Diabolical. The second part is the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Sept. 30 at Belmont, followed by the BC Sprint.

The Vanderbilt set up as Klesaris hoped it would, with Commentator and Attila's Storm running neck and neck through early fractions of 21.74 seconds and 44.54. Mario Pino had Diabolical in third position down the backstretch and swung him into action around the far turn.

Attila's Storm put away Commentator in midstretch while Diabolical was rallying down the center of the main track. Though Attila's Storm was game under John Velazquez, Diabolical had the momentum. Diabolical, owned by Puglisi Stables and Klesaris, covered the six furlongs in 1:08.67 over a fast track and returned $7 as the favorite.

"He carried high weight here, he came off the turn and he had to cover some extra ground at the top of the lane," said Klesaris, whose horse carried 120 pounds along with Saint Anddan. "To still be there and keep gaining . . . he got it done. He's an incredible horse."

Richard Schosberg was equally happy with Attila's Storm's second-place finish. Attila's Storm, who won the Toboggan in March, had been sidelined with foot troubles so severe that the horse couldn't put one of his feet down at one stage.

"I think he sent a message today that he's ready again - we're going to try again," said Schosberg, referring to the BC Sprint, which Attila's Storm has run in the past two years.