03/10/2009 12:00AM

Big Drama off the Derby trail

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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Big Drama's starting berth in the Kentucky Derby has been secure ever since his victory in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot in his 2-year-old finale. But having enough graded earnings is only half the battle when it comes to getting a horse into the starting gate at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, as trainer David Fawkes and owner-breeder Harold Queen learned the hard way this winter.

Fawkes and Queen confirmed Tuesday that Big Drama is off the Derby trail. His fate was sealed by a seemingly insignificant incident that occurred one week before Big Drama was scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull Stakes on Jan. 31.

"He kicked himself in the stall and suffered a bone bruise," Fawkes said. "He kicked himself just hard enough to bruise the bone in such a way that if you don't stop on him and have the area surgically removed, it could cause severe complications down the road."

The surgical procedure was a minor one, but Fawkes lost several weeks of training time while the wound healed. Big Drama, who won 5 of 6 starts at 2 including all three legs of the Florida Stallion Stakes, returned to training last month and even worked a near-bullet five furlongs at Calder on March 1. But after consulting with Queen, Fawkes and the owner decided it was in the best interests of the horse not to push him to make the Derby.

"He's doing well, but because of the missed time, the prudent thing to do right now is not to rush him to try to get a two-turn prep and make the Derby, even though we are assured of getting in," said Fawkes. "We're just going to take our time. I even postponed his regularly scheduled work last weekend. Tentatively, he'll breeze again this Sunday, and if all continues to go well we'll be looking for something shorter to bring him back, then point for some of the better races later this spring and during the summer."

As he awaits Big Drama's return, Fawkes can console himself with the fact that he also has arguably the most talented 3-year-old filly at Calder. That would be the undefeated Gatorette, who ran off the screen for the second time in as many starts when posting a 7 3/4-length entry-level allowance win at Gulfstream on Sunday. The performance was nearly a mirror image of her smashing debut, which she won by 7 1/4 lengths five weeks earlier. Gatorette earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 90 for both races.

"She's owned by Katherine Ball, who bought her at the Keeneland sales," said Fawkes. "She broke her and sent her to me ready to go. When I got her she had already breezed, bucked shins, and come back again. I got her in early December and began training her at Gulfstream, but moved her over to Calder because I thought she'd like that surface better. She didn't surprise me when she won her first start or by the way she ran again Sunday."

Fawkes said Gatorette has been nominated to the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss at 1 1/8 miles on March 27. He also said Ball is entertaining several substantial offers to sell the filly.

"The way she ran 7 1/2 furlongs, I don't think going a mile and one-eighth would be a problem because she appeared awfully comfortable doing it," said Fawkes. "And the further she went, the more comfortable she looked. We'll just see how the race comes up and go from there."

Dutrow thinking big with Plan

Besides having a barn full of talented horses and awaiting the arrival of Stardom Bound later this year, trainer Rick Dutrow also has a Plan - as in a 4-year-old son of Storm Cat whom Dutrow has in training at Gulfstream.

Plan is owned by the IEAH Stables and Michael Tabor. He has not started since finishing second making his U.S. debut in the Grade 1 Secretariat Stakes last August at Arlington Park. Plan, a Group 3 winner with trainer Aidan O'Brien at 3, has been working regularly at Gulfstream since early February.

"I think he can win the Breeders' Cup Classic," Dutrow said while showing Plan off earlier this week. "Although he's raced only on turf up to this point, I don't see why he should be limited, especially considering his breeding. I mean he's by Storm Cat and [out of] Spain. It doesn't get much better than that."

Dutrow said Plan is just about ready to run.

"He's close," said Dutrow. "I might even send him back north and look for a two-other-than at Aqueduct in a couple of weeks. We'll see."

And in a stable full of good horses like Kip Deville, how special does Dutrow think Plan can be?

"Look at his stall," said Dutrow. "He's got two balls to play with. Even Kip's only got one."

Hello Broadway preps for Tampa

Hello Broadway worked five furlongs in a bullet 59.40 seconds Tuesday morning at Gulfstream in his final prep for Saturday's Tampa Bay Derby. Hello Broadway is expected to go postward as the favorite in a field of nine to 11 3-year-olds in the Grade 3 Tampa Derby.

Other potential starters include General Quarters, Sumo, and Musket Man, the first three finishers in last month's Grade 3 Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa; Bear's Rocket; Join in the Dance; Perfect Bull; Top Seed; and Warrior's Reward. Trainers Nick Zito and Tim Ritchey are also considering sending one of their 3-year-olds in for the race.

* How's Your Halo, upset winner of the Grade 2 Richter Scale here last month, worked a half-mile in 48.80 at Palm Meadows on Tuesday in his final prep for Saturday's Grade 2 Gulfstream Park Handicap.