12/06/2008 12:00AM

Big Drama turns back 'Bernie' in Jackpot

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VINTON, La. - Big Drama took his game to a whole new level on Friday night, when he was part of a quick pace and then withstood a bid from West Side Bernie to win his fifth straight race in the Grade 3, $750,000 Delta Jackpot at Delta Downs. It was the graded stakes debut for Big Drama, who earlier this year swept the Florida Stallion Stakes series at his home track of Calder Race Course.

"He showed a lot of talent today," said David Fawkes, who trains Big Drama. "He showed a lot of run."

The Jackpot was one of six stakes worth a cumulative $1.5 million on the richest card of the Delta meet. Big Drama won the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds by a length, while West Side Bernie held second. It was another half-length back in third to a fast-closing Stimulus Plan.

Big Drama ($9.80) broke sharply and attended a quick pace as Kick On, Three Part Harmony, and Terrain were all prominent through an opening quarter in 22.55 seconds.

Big Drama continued to race in third through a half-mile in 46.29, then moved to the lead approaching the final turn. He was in command through six furlongs in 1:11.42, then held off West Side Bernie to cover the distance on a fast track in 1:44.72.

"For a second, that horse came close to me, and when I asked him for a little bit extra he gave it to me," said Eibar Coa, who rode Big Drama. "He proved today he can compete on any kind of track and against any kind of horses."

Fawkes said Big Drama would return to Florida and plans for his next start would be discussed with owner and breeder Harold Queen.

Terrain finished fifth as the favorite in the Jackpot, one start after his close fourth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"It was first time in blinkers, which we did think would move him up a little bit closer to the pace, but he was just way too close," said Jamie Theriot, the regular rider on Terrain. "It was surprising, because we worked him with blinkers and he never did [that]. I mean, he was rank. I think he does need the blinkers, and he's liable to relax a lot better next time."

Big Drama, a son of Montbrook, earned $450,000 for his win in the Jackpot, which was his fifth career win from six starts. He has now earned $860,250.

Delta handled a record $3,172,578 from all sources on its 11-race card. The previous all-time high handle came on Jackpot night in 2003, when $2,477,493 was bet on the card. Of the handle Friday night, $142,403 was bet ontrack at Delta.

Princess: Four Gifts grabs a graded win

Four Gifts angled out into the stretch and forged clear for a 2 1/4-length win over even-money favorite C. S. Silk in the Grade 3, $500,000 Delta Princess. It was another 2 3/4 lengths back in third to Smokin Again.

The Delta Princess, a one-mile race for 2-year-old fillies, was run as a graded stakes for the first time Friday.

Four Gifts settled in fifth early, as Seacrettina set fractions of 22.61 seconds for the opening quarter and 47.19 for the half. Four Gifts was boxed in around the final turn, moved outside into the stretch, and barreled home, covering the distance in 1:38.71. She paid $16.60.

"She ran a tremendous race," said Shaun Bridgmohan, who was aboard Four Gifts for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable owns Four Gifts, a daughter of Even the Score who made her stakes debut in the Delta Princess following a first-level allowance win at Churchill Downs.

Livin Lovin was scratched from the Delta Princess after she was found to have a small bone chip in her ankle, her trainer, Steve Klesaris, said Friday night. He said she would return to action in the spring.

* Earlier on the card, Asmussen and Bridgmohan teamed up with Rolling Sea ($4.60), who held off favorite Unforgotten by a head to win the $100,000 Treasure Chest for fillies and mares.

* Tend ($4.60) picked up his third straight win when he drove to a three-quarter-length victory over Coach Ryan in the $50,000 Sam's Town for 3-year-olds. Robby Albarado rode the winner for trainer Al Stall Jr.

* My Heavenly Sign ($6.60) won by a length over Dubit in the $50,000 Orleans for 3-year-old fillies. Gabriel Saez was aboard for trainer Larry Jones.

* Acting Zippy ($23.20) was up for a neck win over Smokeyjonessutton in the $100,000 Delta Mile. Shane Laviolette rode the winner for trainer Don Bennett.