09/02/2011 11:20AM

Calder: Sprint champion Big Drama returns to action in Whippleton Handicap

Bob Coglianese
Big Drama will make his first start since January in Sunday's Whippleton Handicap at Calder.

MIAMI – A $75,000 stakes at Calder rarely catches the attention of anybody outside the local area, especially over Labor Day weekend. But the Whippleton Handicap will have the eyes of the racing world focused, if only briefly, on south Florida shortly after 4 p.m. Sunday when the reigning sprint champion, Big Drama, emerges from hibernation to make his much anticipated comeback in the 6 1/2-furlong overnight stakes.

Big Drama, a homebred son of Montbrook owned by Harold Queen, has not started since his record-setting four-length triumph in Gulfstream Park’s Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on Jan. 15. Big Drama not only set a new course standard for six furlongs of 1:08.12 that afternoon, he also earned a 120 Beyer Speed Figure for his performance, a number that has gone unchallenged as the year’s best during his 7 1/2-month absence.

The Mr. Prospector was Big Drama’s first and only start since he clinched divisional honors in 2010 with his 1 1/2-length victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Big Drama ran just five times during a championship campaign that also included local victories in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint and Ponche overnight handicap. Overall, Big Drama has won 6 of 7 starts over his home course, his lone defeat at Calder coming in his career debut at 2.

Trainer David Fawkes sent Big Drama to Queen’s farm in Ocala this winter to rest and recuperate from his demanding efforts in the Breeders’ Cup and Mr. Prospector. Big Drama finally took up residence again on the Calder backstretch in mid-July and has had just three recorded works in preparation for his return, including a bullet five furlongs in 1:01 here Sunday morning.

“I’m very relieved that the race filled, and I have to thank track management for adding some extra money to the purse to help make the race go,” said Fawkes, who is currently in Saratoga and unlikely to make it back home to watch Big Drama’s return in person Sunday.

The original purse of the Whippleton was $55,000, including $5,000 in Florida owners’ awards.

Fawkes said Big Drama, who will tote high weight of 124 pounds in the Whippleton, is training well, but admitted that he might need a race off the bench.

“He’s doing great, but I don’t have him screwed down 100 percent,” Fawkes said. “I just need to get him started this weekend, if he’s going to be ready to defend his title in the Breeders’ Cup. Our only other option was going to Monmouth for the the Icecapade on Monday, and I’d much rather stay home and be able to walk him over out of his own stall the first time back than have to ship him out of town.”

Fawkes said that if all goes well in his return, Big Drama’s final Breeders’ Cup prep would come in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park.

Eibar Coa rode Big Drama to victory in the Breeders’ Cup and was his regular rider for all but one of his starts in 2010. But Coa suffered serious injuries in a riding mishap that occurred at Gulfstream Park one month after the Mr. Prospector. He’ll be replaced aboard Big Drama on Sunday by Daniel Centeno.

Racing secretary Mike Anifantis was able to persuade six rivals to face the champ in the Whippleton, including the four-time Grade 2 winner D’F unnybone and the red-hot Black Diamond Cat, who has won his last three starts, including a pair of stakes. D’ Funnybone, second as the 1-9 favorite in the Grade 2 Carry Back here last summer, was transferred to trainer Marty Wolfson’s barn following his distant eighth-place finish in the James Marvin Stakes on opening day at Saratoga.

The remainder of the field consists of Peace At Dawn, How’s Your Halo, Double Judge, and Accredit.