06/29/2016 3:06PM

Sheer Drama's absence opens up Princess Rooney

Benoit & Associates
With Sheer Drama passing the race, Birdatthewire (above) is the only Grade 1 winner in the Princess Rooney.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – That collective sigh of relief heard from the Gulfstream Park racing office and points north on Wednesday came from the connections of seven of the eight fillies and mares entered in Saturday’s Grade 2 Princess Rooney once they learned that the multiple Grade 1 winner Sheer Drama will not be in the race.

The Princess Rooney was one of the three graded stakes on Saturday’s Summit of Speed program to be drawn Wednesday, along with the Grade 2 Smile Sprint and Grade 3 Carry Back.

Trainer David Fawkes briefly contemplated bringing Sheer Drama back on short rest for the Princess Rooney, a Win and You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. Fawkes still will be represented in the seven-furlong Princess Rooney by the lightly raced Willow Hills, who makes her 2016 debut.

Sheer Drama finished fifth in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps at Belmont on June 11.

“It would have obviously been a very good spot for her, especially since she could walk right out of her stall into the starting gate,” Fawkes said when asked about his decision not to start Sheer Drama. “But in the end, it would just have been too quick a turnaround. I’m going to give her a little break, freshen her up a bit, and point for the Ballerina later this summer at Saratoga.”

With Sheer Drama out, Birdatthewire becomes the only Grade 1 winner in the lineup for the Princess Rooney. Birdatthewire captured the Grade 1 La Brea at Santa Anita in her 3-year-old finale on Dec. 26 but has gone winless in four subsequent starts, most recently finishing fifth in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs.

Spelling Again joined Birdatthewire on Wednesday’s flight from Kentucky to south Florida for the Princess Rooney. A Grade 2 winner, Spelling Again finished a troubled third, beaten less than a length, in the Grade 3 Winning Colors at Churchill on May 28.

The local contingent will be headed by the Marty Wolfson-trained duo of Cali Star and Kiss to Remember. Other locals in the field include My Miss Venezuela, Concealedwithakiss, and Be Mind Phil.

The Grade 2 Smile Sprint, a Win and You’re In for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, drew seven starters, topped by the David Jacobson-trained pair of Chief Lion and Eighty Three, who was supplemented into the race. Limousine Liberal, who finished 11th in the 2015 BC Sprint, and Delta Bluesman will also ship in for the six-furlong dash, which, like the Princess Rooney, offers a purse of $250,000.

The lineup is completed by the locally based More Applause, Storming Inti, and Copingaway.

Awesome Banner will be the odds-on favorite in the seven-furlong Carry Back, which lured seven 3-year-olds, including Kentucky invader Rated R Superstar for trainer Ken McPeek. Awesome Banner got back on the winning track last month with an easy victory in the Big Cypress Stakes, the final local prep for the Carry Back.

Rated R Superstar, third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at 2, snapped a seven-race losing streak with an allowance win at Churchill Downs in his last start.

The rest of the Carry Back field consists of Bullet Gone Astray, Discreet Angel, Dream of Me, Jacopone, and Li’l Meatball.