06/15/2010 11:00PM

Lord Robyn still has something left at 8

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MIAMI - Big Drama returned from a more than nine-month layoff to win last Saturday's Ponche Handicap in impressive fashion. But it was the performance the previous afternoon of the old-timer Lord Robyn that may have had David Fawkes smiling the most when he reflected on the weekend after training hours at Calder on Monday.

Lord Robyn rallied from six lengths back at the head of the stretch to post a nose decision over pacesetter Double Judge in Friday's 10th race, a first-level optional $16,000 claimer at five furlongs. The race was decided over a sloppy main track after having originally been carded for the turf. The victory was the 13th in 53 career starts for the 8-year-old Lord Robyn and increased his career earnings to nearly $485,000.

Lord Robyn began his career with Fawkes, was claimed away for $75,000 in February 2008 but was racing with little success at Turf Paradise when purchased privately by former owner Alex Lieblong earlier this spring. He eventually made his way back to Fawkes's barn last month.

"Alex found him in Arizona shortly after we won the Oaklawn Handicap with Duke of Mischief," said Fawkes. "He bought him back and when he sent him to me said if I wanted to run him, run him, otherwise we'll retire him. But he actually came back to me in good shape and as long as the old guy is doing well, we'll keep running him."

Lord Robyn registered his most important victory for Fawkes at 3 when he captured the Grade 3 Tropical Park Derby. He won a couple of overnight stakes and eventually turned into a sprint specialist later in his career.

"It's really nice to have the old boy back," said Fawkes. "He's such a neat horse to have around the barn. I owned a piece of him when we had him originally and he was always a barn favorite. I think he's as glad to be back as we are to have him."

Fawkes reported that Big Drama would return to the track Wednesday to begin preparations for the Grade 2 Smile Handicap on July 10. Big Drama posted a relatively easy 3 3/4-length victory over three outclassed rivals in the Ponche while making his first start since late August. He earned a 96 Beyer Speed Figure.

"Big Drama came out of the race great and we'll just sit still with him here until the Smile," Fawkes said. "I was very pleased with his race on Saturday. The rider never hit the horse. He did it easily. It was a perfect prep for his first start back."

Fawkes also said that Duke of Mischief returned none the worse for wear from his eighth-place finish in Saturday's Grade 1 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.

"Eibar [Coa] said he was trapped down inside and Duke just didn't run his race," said Fawkes. "I'm not sure what we'll do next. The Salvator Mile comes up too soon. Maybe I can find something locally for him. Otherwise the Iselin, which is still 10 weeks away, could be an option."

The Philip Iselin, a $300,000 race at 1 1/8 miles, will be contested on Aug. 21 at Monmouth Park.

Horsemen pleased by purse increase

Overnight purses were increased 10 percent, effective Thursday, much to the delight of local horsemen. The increase was due primarily to the success of the new slots room which opened last winter, along with the Florida gaming tax reduction, which goes into effect on July 1.

"We are pleased with the efforts of our leadership at Calder to manage a purse increase at a time when our horsemen need it the most," said Sam Gordon, president of the Florida Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association. "We remain hopeful for trends that may lend to more increases in the future."