07/24/2015 3:03PM

Sparkman: Success of Riveting Drama hard to fathom

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Grade 1 winner Sheer Drama is the latest stakes winner for broodmare Riveting Drama.

Despite the inroads feminism has managed in the last 40 years or so, we still live in a paternalistic culture. Women in the American workforce, on average, are paid only about 71 percent of the salary of men in the same jobs. In the Thoroughbred world, although stallions and mares both contribute 50 percent of the genes to each foal produced, it is the sires who tend to get most of the credit. While paternalistic tradition certainly accounts for some of that perception, the simple fact stallions produce far more foals each year and in their lifetimes also exerts a powerful influence on the way we talk about racehorse pedigrees. One hundred or more foals a year and thousands over a lifetime lend themselves to statistical analysis, while one foal per year and perhaps seven or eight in a broodmare’s lifetime does not.

How then does one begin to talk about the parentage of 2015 Grade 1 Delaware Handicap winner Sheer Drama? Although her sire, Burning Roma, has sired 180 foals of racing age and her dam, Riveting Drama, has produced 10, each has produced five stakes winners to date, and in fact, Riveting Drama is the dam of three of Burning Roma’s five stakes winners, including his two highest earners. Furthermore, none of those three stakes winners is Riveting Drama’s most accomplished offspring to date.

The problem for a pedigree analyst is explaining exactly why Riveting Drama is a Broodmare of the Year-quality broodmare. Bred in Florida by R.A. Kingwell, Riveting Drama was one of eight foals out of the modestly bred maiden winner Special Token, by the Grade 1-winning stud failure Hyperborean, by Icecapade. One of her half-brothers, Gamboa Road Gang, by the good sire Country Pine, placed in stakes in Panama, and Special Token is a half-sister to the minor stakes winner Reverse Mulligan, by Far Out East, and to the Grade 3-placed Shivering Gal, by It’s Freezing. Shivering Gal is the dam of the multiple stakes winner Shivering Six, a daughter of Saratoga Six who produced two stakes winners and is the second dam of a third.

Riveting Drama’s third dam, Betoken, won the Polly Drummond Stakes at Delaware Park and produced the multiple stakes winner Faster Than Fast, but it is Betoken’s sire, Dunce, who surely is one of the keys to the pedigree. By Tom Fool out of Ghazni, by Mahmoud, Dunce won the 1959 American Derby and Arlington Classic but did not make much of an impression as a stallion, siring only 14 stakes winners. Dunce’s stakes-placed full sister Cap and Bells, however, was an outstanding broodmare, producing the Irish classic winner Lady Capulet (dam of champion and leading sire El Prado, by Sadler’s Wells), by Sir Ivor,  as well as the undefeated non-stakes winner Drone, a son of Sir Gaylord who became an outstanding sire at Claiborne Farm.

More importantly for our story, Cap and Bells also produced the unraced Tom Rolfe filly Mobcap, the dam of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes winner Notebook, who is the sire of Riveting Drama. Therefore, Riveting Drama is inbred 4x5 to both Tom Fool and Ghazni through the full brother and sister Dunce and Cap and Bells, a pattern that occurs with notorious frequency in the pedigrees of top sires and broodmares, especially those whose prepotency is otherwise surprising. In this case, there is little else one can point to as the source of Riveting Drama’s excellence as a broodmare.

Purchased for $22,000 at the 1995 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. August yearling sale by David McKathan, Riveting Drama was pinhooked to the 1996 OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, where Harold Queen bought her for $36,000. Notebook, by Well Decorated, was pretty effective as a stallion, siring 49 stakes winners from 635 foals, including Grade 1 winners Delaware Township, Booklet, Three Ring, and Spoken Fur, but Riveting Drama never made it to the races.

Her first foal, Drama’s Way, by Farma Way, raced only twice but won both times, including the Scarlet and Gray Handicap at Beulah Park. Her second and third foals, both by Tejano Run, were durable winning claimers, and her fourth, Maltese Massive, by Yes It’s True, sold for $130,000 at the 2005 OBS March sale and earned $560,883 in Japan. Riveting Drama’s fifth foal, Coffee Can, by Kissin Kris, won 3 of 16 starts at 4 and 5 and placed in a stakes at Mountaineer Racetrack.

The sire of Riveting Drama’s sixth foal, top Florida sire Montbrook, added a third cross of Tom Fool through the latter’s great son Buckpasser and Montbrook’s sire, Buckaroo. Named Big Drama, he won 5 of 6
starts at 2, including the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot Stakes, and trained on to win the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint as a 4-year-old, which earned him champion sprinter honors in 2010. Big Drama currently stands at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, Fla., and his first foals are 2-year-olds of 2015.

Riveting Drama’s seventh foal, the gelding Little Drama, was her first by Burning Roma, and he won 4 of 20 starts and earned $359,299, including the Philmont and Frank Gomez Memorial stakes. Her eighth, Queen Drama, by Burning Roma, also is a stakes winner, capturing the Florida Stallion Susan’s Girl Stakes in 2011.

Sheer Drama is Riveting Drama’s ninth foal and third consecutive offspring by Burning Roma. Unraced at 2, she has improved each year she has raced. Sheer Drama won 2 of 6 starts at 3 and placed in an overnight stakes at Belmont Park. Last year at 4, she won only once in six tries, but that was the Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes at Laurel Park.

Sheer Drama began her third season of racing this year by running second in the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff Stakes before finishing second to House Rules in the Grade 3 Rampart Handicap. Sheer Drama improved again to turn the tables on House Rules and win the Grade 2 Royal Delta Stakes by 6 1/2 lengths but failed by three-quarters of a length to catch Molly Morgan in the Grade 1 La Troienne. Frivolous beat Sheer Drama by 1 1/2 lengths in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis, but the Burning Roma mare improved once again to beat Frivolous by two lengths in the Delaware Handicap.

Riveting Drama produced an unnamed filly by Chapel Royal in 2012 but has not since produced a live foal.

Sheer Drama is by far the best horse yet sired by Burning Roma, who was a good enough racehorse to expect much more from as a stallion. His sire, Rubiano, by Fappiano, the champion sprinter of 1992, was himself something of a disappointment as a sire. Though he sired 33 stakes winners from 510 foals, Burning Roma was his only Grade 1 winner, and even his Grade 1 win was somewhat tarnished.

The winner of his first two starts, including the Prince Georges Park Stakes, Burning Roma challenged the brilliant heavy favorite City Zip in deep stretch of the 2000 Grade 1 Futurity Stakes but fell a nose short at the wire. City Zip, who was better at distances shorter than the Futurity’s mile distance, was tiring badly nearing the wire, however, and swerved out, bumping Burning Roma, who was awarded the race by the stewards.

Throughout a five-year, 36-start racing career, Burning Roma proved himself a good, tough, consistent, and highly admirable racehorse, adding the Grade 2 Meadowlands Cup Handicap, the Grade 3 Red Bank Handicap, and nine other stakes races to his ledger, which included 13 wins and earnings of $1,500,200.

As a fourth-generation descendant of the great Phipps broodmare Lady Be Good, Burning Roma had plenty of pedigree to go along with his excellent race record, but neither has translated to stud success. Outside of his three matings with Riveting Drama, he has sired only two stakes winners from 177 foals of racing age: Perf (out of Hermoine, by Marquetry), a stakes winner at Mountaineer and Tampa Bay; and the Foolish Pleasure Stakes winner Burning Time (Lil’s Time, by Gilded Time).

The Broodmare of the Year award traditionally is strongly biased in favor of Kentucky-based mares, and the Triple Crown victory of American Pharoah will be a powerful magnet for his dam, Littleprincessemma, but it is hard to argue with the record of Riveting Drama. Whatever the source of her excellence, she has proved herself award worthy.