08/06/2010 3:20PM

Big Drama aims at a Grade 1 again in Vanderbilt

Barbara D. Livingston
Big Drama, with Celia Fawkes up, exercises at Saratoga in preparation for Sunday's Grade 1 Vanderbilt.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Big Drama’s first two forays into Grade 1 company were unsuccessful. His connections hope the third time is the charm when Big Drama seeks his first Grade 1 victory in Sunday’s $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

Big Drama’s first Grade 1 attempt came in last year’s Preakness, where he finished fifth to Rachel Alexandra in a race where he got hot and bothered at the gate. The second try came in last year’s King’s Bishop here where here caught a sloppy main track and finished sixth of nine.

With no 1 3/16 miles nor rain to worry about, Big Drama looks poised to get his breakthrough victory in the Vanderbilt, a stepping-stone to the Grade 1 Forego later in the meet. Big Drama is 4 for 4 at the Vanderbilt distance of six furlongs, which includes a 1 1/2-length victory in last month’s Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder.

In that race, Big Drama raced up close to the pace and three wide early on. Under his own power, he dragged Eibar Coa to the lead at the quarter pole and though he appeared to tire a little bit late, he still got the job done.

“It didn’t look like he struggled in there to me,” trainer David Fawkes said. “I like where he sat last time. I was really happy with that tactical speed that he showed.”

Big Drama will break from post 4 under Eibar Coa.

Coa will likely to have to keep Big Drama in close proximity of Majesticperfection, who brings a four-race winning streak into the Vanderbilt, his first test against graded stakes company. In his first stakes try, Majesticperfection won the Iowa Sprint Handicap by 4 3/4 lengths, running six furlongs in a track-record 1:07.24 and earning a gaudy Beyer Speed Figure of 117.

“We hoped to run him in a three-other-than before we brought him here, but the allowance wasn’t filling, so we went to Iowa and he ran spectacular,” trainer Steve Asmussen. “We’ve had issues with him switching leads behind. He has cross-fired when he comes into the stretch in the majority of his races. I don’t know if we fix it if he’ll slow down or go faster.”

Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Majesticperfection from post 5.

The connections of Bribon, Gayego, and Mambo Meister are hoping Big Drama and Majesticperfection go fast early in the Vanderbilt.

Trainer Todd Pletcher turned Bribon back in distance from a mile to six furlongs in the Grade 2 True North and he responded with a last-to-first victory on Belmont Stakes Day.

“I was hopeful he could do it. I thought seven [furlongs] would suit him better, but when the pace scenario was right it didn’t surprise us at all he was able to do it,” Pletcher said. “The horse is training really, really well. Hopefully, there’s enough pace up front.”

Gayego has not run on dirt since winning an optional claiming allowance race here last Aug. 17. He used that as a springboard to a Grade 1 victory in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita last October. He was then beaten a neck when fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Gayego is winless in three starts this year, most recently finishing third in the Grade 1 Triple Bend last month at Hollywood Park.

“He needed the race last time, and he came back from the race very well,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. “He’s sound, happy and healthy. It’s a tough race but the horse shows class. He’s in the right race, right distance.”

Mambo Meister is a graded stakes winner going long on turf and dirt. Last time out, trainer Phil Gleaves turned him back in distance and he finished second to Big Drama in the six-furlong Smile.

“I love turning horses back, and he ran huge,” Gleaves said. “I think he’ll move forward off his last race and we’ll see where we’re at, where we fit.”

Smokey Fire has won 5 of 9 starts including a pair of sprint stakes over Woodbine’s synthetic surface. This will be the first start on dirt for Smokey Fire, a 5-year-old Smoke Glacken gelding.

Temecula Creek, 4 for 4 since being claimed for $7,500 by Rudy Rodriguez in March, takes a huge step up in class in the Vanderbilt.