11/30/2012 4:20PM

Gulfstream Park: Fawkes takes on an old pupil in Sunshine State Stakes

Coady Photography
Bahamian Squall is one of three 3-year-olds in Sunday's $100,000 Sunshine State Stakes.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – If trainer David Fawkes is going to win Sunday’s $100,000 Sunshine State Stakes at Gulfstream Park with his top 3-year-old sprinter, Bahamian Squall, he’s likely going to have to beat an old friend to do so – former pupil Little Drama.

Fawkes trained Little Drama at 2 and 3 before owner Harold Queen transferred the homebred to Michael Mareina during the spring. While with Fawkes, Little Drama won a pair of stakes and also finished third in the Grade 2 Hutcheson and Swale at Gulfstream during the 2011 season.

Bahamian Squall, one of three 3-year-olds in the seven-furlong Sunshine State, won his career debut earlier this year at Gulfstream. He has since been stakes placed twice for Fawkes and owner-breeder Donald Dizney, finishing second behind Fort Loudon in the Unbridled and second again to Close It Out in the Jack Dudley Sprint Handicap in his most recent start.

Both Fort Loudon and Close It Out are also among the nine Florida-bred speedsters entered in the restricted Sunshine State.

“My horse couldn’t be training any better,” said Fawkes, who won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and an Eclipse Award for Queen with Little Drama’s half-brother Big Drama. “But I see Little Drama out there in the morning, and it looks like he’s training well, too. I’m excited about running my horse, and I’m competitive enough that I have no mixed emotions about beating Mr. Queen’s horse. I have to worry about winning the race with my horse, not who I’m running against.”

Little Drama is in peak form for Mareina and comes off the two best efforts of his career, a fourth-place finish behind Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up The Lumber Guy in the Grade 1 Vosburgh and a second in the Grade 3 Bold Ruler Handicap. Little Drama earned 101 Beyer Speed Figures for both performances.

“In the Vosburgh, we were down on the inside, had to send out of there to avoid getting buried or covered up, and wound up getting hooked by the horse on the rail the whole way,” Mareina said. “I don’t think we would have beaten the winner that day, but I believe he could have hit the board with an outside post. I was really impressed with my horse’s effort in the Bold Ruler. The winner [Buffum] ran a huge race.”

Mareina also believes seven furlongs may be Little Drama’s optimum distance.

“I think he’s definitely a one-turn horse now, and if you look at his record, he’s always been solid at seven furlongs,” Mareina said. “There’s not a lot of speed in this field, and I told Jesus [Castanon] not to be surprised if he finds himself on the lead a little earlier than he might think, which would be fine because I’d like to be able to get a jump on all the closers.”

Fort Loudon is coming off a game second-place effort behind Neck ’n Neck after setting a contested pace going a mile in the Grade 3 Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs. He also was a sharp second going seven panels in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop this summer at Saratoga.

The Sunshine State will be Fort Loudon’s first start in south Florida since upsetting Trinniberg in the Grade 3 Carry Back at Calder on July 7 when with trainer Stanley Gold. Fort Loudon was transferred to Nick Zito shortly after that race and will remain in his barn here this winter.

Both Good Lord and Captain Genius bring top form into their Gulfstream Park debuts. Good Lord has won four of his last five starts, including the Mountaineer Mile, while Captain Genius has captured three of his last four outings, all at Mountaineer.