01/06/2011 4:00PM

2010 Eclipse Awards: Big Drama


Trainer David Fawkes had a definite plan for Big Drama’s 2010 campaign: Bring him back fresh for the second half of the season, race him exclusively at distances of six and seven furlongs, and point to the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs.

Fawkes’s plan worked to perfection, with the end result being a victory on Breeders’ Cup Day and a spot for Big Drama as one of the three finalists for a 2010 Eclipse Award in the sprint division.

Despite the fact that Big Drama had won both the two-turn In Reality and two-turn Delta Downs Jackpot at 2, narrowly missed capturing the nine-furlong West Virginia Derby at 3, and disputed the pace with no less an opponent than Rachel Alexandra before finishing fifth in the 2009 Preakness, Fawkes was confident that down the road his colt’s best game would be sprinting.

“I was pretty sure after he bettered the Gulfstream Park track record in the Swale that ultimately sprinting would be where he’d make his mark,” Fawkes said.

Unfortunately, Big Drama was disqualified from his apparent victory in the 2009 Swale and as a result lost what would have been the seven-furlong track record.

Fawkes brought Big Drama back from a 9 1/2-month layoff to capture his 2010 debut in Calder’s six-furlong Ponche Handicap. The race served as a perfect prep for Big Drama’s first goal of the season, the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap, which he won by 1 1/2 lengths after showing the ability to rate and win from just off the pace.

Big Drama subsequently made two trips to Saratoga, where he had trouble at the start of both of his races. Big Drama got bumped leaving the gate at the beginning of the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap and did well to finish second behind Majesticperfection, who cruised on an easy lead. In the seven-furlong, Grade 1 Forego, Big Drama stumbled at the break. He edged clear in early stretch, and then dug in bravely before dropping a three-quarter-length decision to the late-striding Here Comes Ben.

Fawkes opted to bring Big Drama into the Breeders’ Cup off a nine-week rest. His chances seemed compromised when he drew post 1, especially when it appeared the inside was the deepest part of the racetrack at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup Day. As a result, Fawkes decided to employ the only strategy possible to overcome those disadvantages, instructing jockey Eibar Coa to send Big Drama right out of the gate, get to the lead, and get off the rail.

Both horse and rider complied perfectly to the boss’s orders.

Big Drama left the gate in full stride, opened a clear advantage before going a quarter-mile, settled into the stretch with a comfortable advantage while racing well out in the track, and then had plenty left to post a 1 1/2-length triumph in the Sprint. The performance completed not only a possible championship season for Big Drama, who is owned and was bred by Harold Queen, but the game plan his trainer had set out more than six months earlier.

PAST PERFORMANCES: Big Drama's 2010 season PPs (PDF)

KEY RACE REPLAY: Breeders' Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs >>