05/29/2009 12:00AM

Big Drama well worth the trip


MIAMI - Trainer David Fawkes has learned that having a top 3-year-old in the barn like Big Drama entitles him to more perks than just the potential big payday or notoriety that goes along with competing in major stakes. One such perk is the frequent flyer miles he's been piling up travelling between his home in south Florida and Monmouth Park, where Big Drama is stabled and is likely to remain throughout the summer.

Fawkes and owner-breeder Harold Queen opted to keep Big Drama in the Northeast rather than return him to his main base at Calder following his promising fifth-place finish in the Preakness. As a result, Fawkes will continue splitting his time between Miami and the Jersey Shore as he prepares Big Drama for his summer campaign.

"I just got back from New Jersey to watch some horses breeze here," Fawkes said during training hours at Calder on Friday morning. "I'll be heading right back and then returning again for my daughter's recital."

Big Drama turned in an impressive effort in defeat in the Preakness. He was fractious at the gate and had to be backed out and reloaded prior to the start. He then bobbled briefly after the break before contesting a grueling pace with ultimate winner Rachel Alexandra, hanging in bravely to midstretch before fading some at the end while making only his second start since December.

"We've been taking things slow with him since the Preakness," said Fawkes. "He's just been galloping, and we've done some schooling at the gate. He might breeze when I get up there next week. One thing we'd like to work on is getting him to relax a little better. He's been on the bridle pretty good in each of his last three races, especially after stumbling coming out of the gate in the Preakness."

Fawkes said no decision has been made regarding Big Drama's immediate future.

"We could go either way with him over the next several months," said Fawkes. "He might continue going two turns with races like the Haskell or West Virginia Derby as objectives. Or we could shorten him up again and point for something like the King's Bishop. There is an overnight stakes coming up at Monmouth and that may end up being our first objective. Right now nothing is certain."

Despite spending a lot of time on the road these days, Fawkes has gotten off to a very good start during the opening month of the long Calder meet. Entering Friday's card, Fawkes was in a dead heat for third in the standings with seven victories, just two behind leading trainer Bill White. Fawkes's wins have come from just 18 starters, a success rate of nearly 40 percent.

Five entrants, five contenders

A field of only five horses was entered for Sunday's $27,000 allowance feature, to be decided at a mile for fillies and mares. But the race couldn't be any more wide open, with a legitimate case to be made for all five starters.

Shorty Puffs, who earned a career-best 92 Beyer defeating entry-level allowance opposition by 17 lengths on May 3, will likely be favored. Glotona, who posted a 96 Beyer beating second-level allowance runners in her Gulfstream finale, figures to give Shorty Puffs an early run for her money.

A hot pace would benefit the stretch-running Ashlee the Great, who registered a last-to-first second-level allowance win over the tough Even Road in her most recent start. The field is completed by Sweetsouthernqueen, who has captured four of her last five outings, all against starter allowance company, and the stakes-tested Cape Cod Lady.

* Apprentice jockey Noel Vigil made his presence felt when racing resumed on Thursday. The five-pound apprentice captured both ends of Thursday's late daily double with Alarming Afleet and Our Dreamette, as well as Friday's third race aboard longshot Sicilian Honor. Vigil had won only six races all year prior to his recent outburst.