There was no doubt that Big Drama was the best sprinter in the country when last season ended. Despite getting most of 2011 off, he might be even better by the time he defends his title in this year's Breeders' Cup.
"I think he's a better horse now," said trainer David Fawkes. "He's grown more and filled out more. I think he's more mature now."
Big Drama won three of five starts in 2010, capped off by his wire-to-wire victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. He returned to his home track at Calder and picked up right where he left off when romping by four lengths in the grade III Mr. Prospector Jan. 15. That was the last time the 5-year-old son of Montbrook was heard from until Sept. 4 when making his comeback in the ungraded Whippleton Stakes at Calder, where he easily defeated a less-than-overwhelming field.
"He needed a break after (the Mr. Prospector)," Fawkes said. "He didn't have anything wrong (physically), but it was a really hard race. I think he ran a 123 Beyer.
"His comeback race was OK. There wasn't a lot in there, but he did what he needed to get ready for his next race."
That next race is going to be the Oct. 1 Vosburgh. And according to Fawkes, it is shaping up to be a Breeders' Cup-type sprint. Check out the list of horses tentatively slated to face Big Drama at Belmont Park:
Apriority (Big Drama's stablemate)
Calibrachoa (Toboggan and Tom Fool winner)
Dark Thunder (won four in a row for Pletcher including stakes at Saratoga)
Euroears (Baffert's Bing Crosby winner, second in Golden Shaheen)
Force Freeze (Dubai shipper who won Teddy Drone by four lengths in first U.S. race since 2009)
Giant Ryan (Won five straight including grade II Smile Sprint last out)
Hamazing Destiny (Breeders' Cup runner-up last year)
Justin Phillip (Woody Stephens winner)
Sunrise Smarty (Coming off recent optional claiming win at Saratoga)
Trappe Shot (True North winner by 8, lost by nose in Vanderbilt)
"It's going to be a great race," Fawkes said. "It's a Breeders' Cup race."
Despite spending much of the first-half of season at the farm, Fawkes said Big Drama rounded into form very quickly. The Vosburgh will be a good indication of where the champion stands going into his Breeders' Cup title defense, but if he is anything near what he was going into the 2010 edition, Fawkes will be confident.
"That was my first Breeders' Cup race, but I've never had so much confidence as I did with him," Fawkes said. "His last work before we left for Churchill, he breezed :46 at Calder. You just don't do that at Calder. He did it so easy I knew he was ready.
"Now, I was a little less confident when he draw the one post, but I still thought would run big."
The Breeders' Cup will be Big Drama's final race before being retired.
Fawkes is also hopeful that Apriority will prove that he's a Breeders' Cup-worthy horse in the Vosburgh. After missing by a head in the Sunshine Millions Sprint at Santa Anita Park in January, he rolled by 4 1/2 lengths in an optional claimer at Gulfstream to set him up for a big summer. But the Grand Slam colt went on to finish second in the Carter Handicap (gr. I) at Aqueduct and Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II), then came up with a foot bruise that forced him to miss the Smile Sprint. He finished a disappointing fourth in the Vanderbilt last month.
"It's too bad he missed the Smile Sprint; he was doing great," Fawkes said. "He was used a little too much early in the Vanderbilt. I have to run him (against Big Drama) in the Vosburgh. There is nowhere else left to run."