11/02/2011 5:27PM

Breeders' Cup: Big Drama back to defend title in Sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Big Drama comes into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with only two starts since his victory in last year’s race, and one since January.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Big Drama and trainer David Fawkes return to the scene of their finest hour Saturday at Churchill Downs when they try to defend their title in the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Fawkes has not one, but two chances to join Bob Baffert and Jenine Sahadi as the only trainers to send out back-to-back winners in the Sprint. Fawkes also has Apriority amongst the nine-horse field that includes, from the rail out, Euroears, Giant Ryan, Aikenite, Hamazing Destiny, Jackson Bend, Force Freeze, and Amazombie. Big Drama and Apriority will break from the extreme outside in posts 8 and 9, respectively.

Big Drama led throughout under jockey Eibar Coa to defeat Hamazing Destiny by 1 1/2 lengths in the 2010 Sprint. Coa was left temporarily paralyzed in a riding mishap this past winter at Gulfstream Park. Ramon Dominguez takes his place aboard Big Drama on Saturday.

Big Drama has started just twice since sewing up divisional honors and an Eclipse Award with his victory in the 2010 Sprint, and only once since setting a track record capturing Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on Jan. 15. Fawkes lost the opportunity to get in an important prep for his star when Big Drama was withdrawn from the Grade 1 Vosburgh after spiking a temperature the day before the race.

“Naturally, I’m a little nervous not having gotten that race under our belt,” Fawkes said. “But the horse is doing excellent, and I think he’s certainly fit enough coming off the deeper track at Calder.”

Fawkes also said he does not expect Big Drama to be on the lead as was the case in last year’s Sprint.

“Neither of my horses have to be on the lead, although I think Big Drama will certainly be more forwardly placed than Apriority,” Fawkes said. “I think this is a real good race with a very evenly matched field, and naturally you feel a little more pressure to win coming in with the defending champ.”

Apriority ran in the Vosburgh, but finished a well-beaten seventh after being steadied sharply shortly after the start. Like Big Drama, Apriority also is familiar with the Churchill Downs surface, having been beaten a nose by Aikenite in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on the Kentucky Derby undercard.

Not surprisingly, the Sprint is loaded with speed horses, the quickest of whom may be Euroears who seeks to rebound after finishing far back following early trouble of his own in the Vosburgh. Euroears won the Grade 1 Bing Crosby this summer at Del Mar in his first start since travelling to Dubai to finish second in the Golden Shaheen.

Trainer Bob Baffert said he’s not overly concerned by the fact Euroears drew the rail.

“He’s just as likely to break slow from the outside as he is the rail, but at least if he breaks slow he’ll have room to negotiate, unlike in the Vosburgh when he got caught in traffic,” Baffert said.

Giant Ryan breaks alongside Euroears and also figures to show some early foot coming off his wire-to-wire, half-length victory over Force Freeze in the Vosburgh. The win was the sixth straight for the New York bred, a former claimer, who is trained by Bisnath Parboo.

An early speed duel would enhance the chances of Jackson Bend, Force Freeze, and Amazombie.

Trainer Nick Zito opted to enter Jackson Bend in the Sprint rather than his first preference, the Dirt Mile. Jackson Bend, who is undefeated at distances of seven furlongs or shorter, was second best in the Grade 2 Kelso behind Uncle Mo after rallying from well back to capture the Grade 1 Forego this summer at Saratoga.

Breeders' Cup Sprint: Get graded entries, comments by Mike Watchmaker, and more

“I decided to go in the Sprint for several reasons, including pace and the depth of the Dirt Mile field,” Zito said. “In addition, I think a victory in the Sprint could earn Jackson Bend an Eclipse Award.”

Force Freeze has started just twice since returning from Dubai and being switched to trainer Peter Walder’s barn late this spring. Force Freeze defeated Grade 1 winner Jersey Town by four lengths winning the Teddy Drone at Monmouth Park on July 31 before finishing second over a sloppy track in the Vosburgh.

“I thought he ran a great race in the Vosburgh, considering he was against the bias and racing over a track I don’t think he cared for,” Walder said.

John Velazquez will be aboard Force Freeze for the first time in the Sprint.

Amazombie comes off his most important win, a come-from-behind, three-quarter-length triumph in the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita. Amazombie also was deprived of another graded victory earlier this year following a controversial disqualification in Hollywood Park’s Los Angeles Handicap.

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D. Fawkes
J. Rosario 78, 99, 100 Had excuses in his last two; can upset this off his fine early-season form 20-1
Big Drama
D. Fawkes
R. Dominguez 88, 120, 108 Defending champ sparsely raced in '11, missed final prep; cause for concern 2-1
Jackson Bend
N. Zito
C. Nakatani 112, 107, 108 Shocked he didn't go in Dirt Mile; at his best with more distance than this 3-1
W. Spawr
M. Smith 104, 100, 99 Sharp now, which makes him dangerous considering questions others have 6-1
B. Baffert
R. Bejarano 62, 105, n/a Ignore Vosburgh; strong win two back, but might find the pace here too hot 5-1
Force Freeze
P. Walder
J. Velazquez 103, 101, n/a Good try in the Vosburgh, albeit with the grain of the track; in career form 10-1
Giant Ryan
B. Parboo
C. Velasquez 104, 98, 105 Has won six straight, but his Vosburgh win most recently was bias-aided 8-1
T. Pletcher
J. Castellano 93, 100, 99 Not sure he's quite good enough, and he's at his best with a bit more distance 15-1
Hamazing Destiny
D. W. Lukas
R. Albarado 88, 97, 91 Was a surprising second in this last year; his recent form has not been sharp 15-1