As Fawkes was preparing Big Drama for his career debut in the spring and summer of 2008, the Calder-based trainer was also impressed with his workmate, another unraced 2-year-old named Duke of Mischief.
“These horses were separated by this much,” he added, leaving very little space between his thumb and forefinger of his raised right hand.
Both colts debuted at Calder on July 12, 2008, but neither Big Drama nor Duke of Mischief was able to put much daylight between them.
“Unfortunately, both horses had excuses first time out. Duke got left going three-quarters and Big Drama ran off on the lead going six-and-a-half (furlongs). I should have put them in opposite races and it probably would have worked out,” said Fawkes with a chuckle.
Both colts won next time out on their respective paths to graded stakes company. Although Big Drama quickly established himself as a cut above, Duke of Mischief has proven himself to be a solid handicap runner with flashes of brilliance.
The 5-year-old son of Graeme Hall, who has finished first or second in nine of 18 starts while earning $971,546, enjoyed his best season in 2010. All three of his victories from nine starts came in graded stakes: the Fort Lauderdale (G3) at Gulfstream, the Oaklawn Park Handicap (G2) and the Iselin Invitational (G3) at Monmouth.
“When he fires, he doesn’t have trouble wherever he goes,” Fawkes said. “He’s not much of a tout. I think the best way to gauge him is giving him time between races and how he’s training up to the race. He’s training up to the race good right now.”
Fawkes is hopeful that Duke of Mischief will fire in the Classic, the centerpiece of the six-race Sunshine Millions, which will be split between Gulfstream Park (Classic, $300,000 Filly and Mare Turf, $200,000 Filly and Mare Sprint) and Santa Anita ($300,000 Turf, $300,000 Distaff, $200,000 Sprint).
“He’s better with some time, so we gave him some time,” he said. “He’s super sharp, training really good, acting like his old self.”