11/22/2012 4:59PM

Fair Grounds: Drama Drama seeks big stage win in Pago Hop

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Tom Keyser
Drama Drama has put together a string of strong performances after winning her maiden in her ninth try.

NEW ORLEANS - Sometime over the summer, a light clicked on for the 3-year-old filly Drama Drama, and a horse that needed nine tries to win even a maiden race suddenly became something significantly better. Since finally clearing the maiden ranks in July at Ellis Park, Drama Drama has come home a close third behind the good filly Leading Astray in the Hatoof Stakes at Arlington, an explosive winner of a first-level allowance at Kentucky Downs, and a more-than-respectable third in the Grade 2 Raven Run, a one-turn Polytrack stakes at Keeneland.

Drama Drama’s improvement has been, well, dramatic, begging the question of how long she can hold this kind of form. Her connections, owner-breeder G. Watts Humphrey and his daughter, trainer Vickie Oliver, surely are hoping the answer is “one more race,” as Drama Drama seeks her first stakes victory Saturday at Fair Grounds in the $75,000 Pago Hop Stakes. The eight-horse field includes three shippers from Kentucky and another from Oklahoma as horsemen take a shot at one final late-season turf stakes restricted to 3-year-olds.

Drama Drama will be piloted by Eddie Martin, a one-time Fair Grounds regular who rarely rides this track anymore. Martin, though, was part of some crazy drama on the final day of the 2011-12 Fair Grounds season, when he booted home 109-1 shot Hero of Order in the Louisiana Derby. Look for Martin and his mount near the rear of the field Saturday as Drama Drama’s strong string of races all have come via a sit-and-finish running style.

The horse from Oklahoma, Soonerette, figures to make the pace, just as she did Oct. 19 winning an Oklahoma-bred turf stakes by 1 1/2 lengths. These are open horses, not Okie-breds, and the grass course in Oklahoma plays more to speed than the one in New Orleans, but if Soonerette is left alone on an easy lead, she could be dangerous; facing better horses in the Grade 3 Pucker Up at Arlington, she was beaten less than two lengths while racing 1 1/8 miles.

Trainer Mike Stidham has two for the race, Francisca and Cat Lore. The former appears to be in a touch deep, and the latter, while talented, has a habit of settling for second even when she fires.

Zapper Belle was third in a division of the Valley View Stakes and is not overmatched, though she has failed to win in six turf tries. Ire has never tried turf, but consistently finishes well and seems to be talented enough to contend if she takes to the lawn. State has won two turf races this year since being imported from France and has the kind of closing kick that can be effective at Fair Grounds.

Kazachka, a maiden filly who could not even beat $5,000 claimers at Mountaineer, is the 1-9 favorite to bring up the rear.