Big Drama, a five-time winner as a juvenile whose Triple Crown aspirations were interrupted by a bone bruise that required surgery, returns to action as the one to beat in the $150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. II) March 28 on the Florida Derby undercard at Gulfstream Park.
The seven-furlong Swale attracted six 3-year-olds. Big Drama's major competition figures to come from Sunshine Millions Sprint winner This Ones for Phil and Brave Victory, who is making his second start of the year for trainer Nick Zito.
Owned by Harold Queen and trained by David Fawkes, Big Drama last raced Dec. 5 when he scored by one length in the $750,000 Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III), his first start outside of Florida. The son of Montbrook dominated last year's three-race Florida Stallion Stakes series.
But while preparing for his 3-year-old campaign in January, he kicked himself in a shin while in his stall, sustaining an injury that required surgery. He returned to the work tab at Calder Race Course Feb. 22 and has had three published drills since then.
Big Drama was unbeaten in five starts as a juvenile following a third-place finish in his debut at Calder last July. He earned $860,250. Wagering on Big Drama was suspended for the second pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, but Fawkes could have his eye on one of the Classics later this year.
Eibar Coa, who rode the dark bay colt for the first time in the Delta Jackpot, retains the mount. Big Drama will break from the far outside under 120 pounds.
Also carrying 120 is This Ones for Phil, a son of Untuttable who will have Garrett Gomez in the irons for the first time in his 10-race career. They will break from the rail.
Trained by Rick Dutrow Jr. for owner Paul Pompa Jr. and partners, This Ones for Phil is coming off a fifth-place finish in Gulfstream's Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) on Feb. 28. The chestnut gelding was bumped at the start of the one-turn mile FOY, but recovered to set a quick pace under Edgar Prado before giving way in the homestretch. He finished more than 10 lengths behind the victorious Quality Road , one of the favorites in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
One month earlier, This Ones for Phil charged to a 2 1/4-length win with a wide rally in the six-furlong Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream, a race he won in spite of stumbling at the start. That was the third career victory for This Ones for Phil, who has earned $235,340. He finished up the track to Big Drama in two legs of the FSS last year.
Robert Lapenta's Brave Victory showed much promise as a juvenile when he turned in back-to-back seconds against maidens at Saratoga in his first two starts, then tallied by more than seven lengths at Belmont Park as an odds-on choice Sept. 20. The son of Lion Heart jumped from the maiden ranks into the Champagne (gr. I) two weeks later but was overmatched, finishing a distant seventh. He followed that effort with a fifth-place showing in the Iroquois (gr. III) at Churchill Downs Nov. 1, making a strong middle move before flattening out in the stretch.
Brave Victory returned to action for Zito at Gulfstream Jan. 20, winning a first-level allowance race at six furlongs by a head over Fitzaslew after encountering early trouble. Julien Leparoux, who rallied the bay colt to victory after he was bumped at the start and forced to steady, has the mount once again.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is represented by Zayat Stables' B Z Warrior, making his stakes debut in his third lifetime start. The Malibu Moon colt won at first asking going 6 1/2 furlongs at Gulfstream Feb. 11, then returned one month later with a third-place finish as the favorite in a first-level allowance at one mile.
Sabi Sabi, victorious in two of his past three starts for trainer Edward Pleasa Jr., goes after his first stakes win. Custom for Carlos , from the barn of Eddie Kenneally, steps up following a seven-furlong maiden win in his second start March 7.
$150,000 Swale Stakes (gr. II, Rce 9, 5:11 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. This Ones for Phil (FL), 120, Garrett K. Gomez
2. B Z Warrior (KY), 114, John R. Velazquez
3. Sabi Sabi (FL), 118, Jose Lezcano
4. Custom for Carlos (KY), 114, Kent J. Desormeaux
5. Brave Victory (KY), 116, Julien R. Leparoux
6. Big Drama (FL), 120, Eibar Coa