01/06/2016 12:24PM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Sheer Drama

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Leslie Martin
Sheer Drama began the year as a 37-1 longshot in a restricted stakes.

By the end of 2015, she was among the country’s leading fillies and mares – a two-time Grade 1 winner with an Eclipse-worthy résumé as finalist for outstanding older filly or mare.

David Fawkes trained 5-year-old Florida-bred Sheer Drama for owner-breeder Harold Queen. Though she was a sibling to 2010 champion sprinter Big Drama, Fawkes said the mare, sired by Burning Roma, did not resemble brother “not even remotely.”

Sheer Drama was a light-framed and high-strung. The challenge for Fawkes was to calm her down. It was his second shot. Fawkes trained Sheer Drama at 2, but she suffered from sore shins and was sidelined before she started. When she debuted, it was for another trainer.

Sheer Drama spent her early career mostly banging around the allowance ranks. She was transferred back to Fawkes in summer 2014. The objective: soothe her nerves.

“She wouldn’t settle down, she just wouldn’t settle,” Fawkes said.

Slowly, Sheer Drama changed. “She matured. That’s the key word. Things don’t bother her that may have bothered her when she was younger,” Fawkes said.

For her 2015 debut in January, Sheer Drama sprinted seven furlongs in a restricted stakes at Gulfstream. The distance was short, and bettors dismissed her at 37-1. She flew down the center of the track, finished second and galloped out in front.

Fawkes said it was a turning point. “She probably showed me more that day than she had shown in a while, and I thought – we got a little beast here.”

The race was her first with jockey Joe Bravo, who rode her all year.

One month later in the Grade 3 Rampart, Sheer Drama finished second again despite being shut off.

And then, Sheer Drama hit top form. She stretched to two turns for the Grade 2 Royal Delta at Gulfstream, and won by more than six lengths with a career-high 99 Beyer.

The numbers said she was fast enough for the Grade 1 La Troienne on May 1 at Churchill Downs. Sheer Drama went favored, but finished second. A month later, she was second again, in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis at Churchill.

Still looking for the elusive Grade 1 victory, Fawkes shipped Sheer Drama to Delaware Park in July for the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap at a mile and one-quarter. Given a confident ride by Bravo, she pressed the pace and won by two.

That was cool. But could Sheer Drama win a Grade 1 at the premier summer meet of the East? She could. Facing a top field in the Grade 1 Personal Ensign at Saratoga, Sheer Drama scored by a length and one-quarter.

In her season finale, Sheer Drama was compromised by a wide draw and finished fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff. A longshot to start the season, Sheer Drama ended 2015 with three wins and four seconds, and as a worthy Eclipse Award finalist.