06/04/2008 11:00PM

Fujita vs. Massive Drama

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - When Fujita last raced, he ran a close third at Churchill Downs in the April 26 Derby Trial behind Macho Again, the eventual Preakness runner-up and a starter in Saturday's Belmont Stakes.

Dropped in class to race in a second-level allowance in Saturday's eighth race at Churchill Downs, his task is easier, but the race is no gimme. Matched against him in the $45,200 allowance at 6 1/2 furlongs are seven quality rivals, led by Massive Drama, winner of last year's Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue.

Fujita has been installed as the 8-5 morning-line favorite by track oddsmaker Mike Battaglia, with Massive Drama a close second choice at 2-1.

Fujita, a 3-year-old son of Lion Hearted owned by My Purple Haze Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher, lost for the first time in the Derby Trial after winning his first two starts this spring at Gulfstream Park.

He lost nothing in defeat, however. Rated in fourth, he surged to take a narrow lead in midstretch in the 7 1/2-furlong Derby Trial, only to be passed in the final furlong by Macho Again and runner-up Kodiak Kowboy, a multiple graded stakes winner.

"Obviously, he ran a bang-up race," said Mike McCarthy, Pletcher's Kentucky-based assistant.

Massive Drama appears at a recency disadvantage versus Fujita, not having raced since tiring to ninth, beaten 42 1/4 lengths, in the Group 2 UAE Derby in Dubai on March 29.

"There were not a lot of excuses" to explain why he faded so badly in that 1 1/8-mile race, said trainer Dale Romans, who took over the colt's training from Bob Baffert in the weeks preceding the race in Dubai.

He said the colt recovered quickly from the trip and was put back in training 10 days after he returned.

Besides winning the Hollywood Prevue last year, Massive Drama also ran well in a number of other races prior to his trip to Dubai, finishing third in three graded stakes, the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, Grade 3 San Rafael, and Grade 2 San Vincente.

Stratostar seeks seventh win in 2008

Earlier on Saturday, Stratostar aims to remain perfect in seven starts this year in the fourth race, a starter allowance at a mile on grass. A win could make him the first North American horse to win seven races in 2008. Through Wednesday, he was one of six horses with six victories this year, according to Equibase.

Favorably drawn in post 1, he is heavily favored at 6-5 on the morning line. Ken McPeek trains him for the Allen E. Paulson Living Trust.