Big Drama Targeted for Holy Bull

Harold Queen’s Florida homebred colt Big Drama will make his highly-anticipated 3-year-old debut in the $150,000 Holy Bull Stakes (G3) to be run at 1 1/8 miles at Gulfstream Park on Sat., Jan. 31, according to trainer David Fawkes.

“He’s been a distance twice and for right now we want to keep him at two turns,” said Fawkes. “I’m going to keep him home at Calder to train for the race, keep everything the same. (Eibar) Coa will ride him back.

“We’ll take things one race at a time, just like we have so far in his career. He’s been right on schedule since the race in Louisiana.” Big Drama breezed an easy five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 Sunday morning at Calder, his second work since capturing the $750,000 Delta Jackpot (G3) at Delta Downs on Dec. 5.

Big Drama has won five straight races after a third-place debut at Calder on July 12. The son of Montbrook swept the three ‘open’ divisions of Calder’s Florida Stallion Stakes series before the trip to Louisiana where he won the 1 1/16 miles Delta Jackpot by a length over West Side Bernie.

George and Lori Hall’s West Side Bernie is also training toward his 3-year-old debut in South Florida at Palm Meadows where he worked a ‘bullet’ five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 on Jan. 3 for trainer Kelly Breen. The son of Bernstein finished sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25, beaten only three lengths for it all by Midshipman, prior to his good effort in the Delta Jackpot.

New Dad Orseno Starting New Year with Big Gulfstream Plans

Trainer Joe Orseno counted his blessings in 2008. He was among the leading conditioners at Gulfstream Park and won four races on one card last April. He scored his share of stakes wins despite enduring a run of second-place finishes at Monmouth Park, and he bounced back from heart surgery late in the year to greet the arrival of a new baby, Aly Deanna Orseno, in December.

After getting his first win of 2009 Sunday at Gulfstream, two stakes runners are preparing for campaigns that could make this year even better.

John Perrotta’s Phil the Power was nominated to Saturday’s $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, although the marathoner will be avoiding grass races according to Orseno.

“We’d like to get a prep race for him, but he’s a mile-and-a-half horse and we’ve figured out he likes the long distance, but not so much the grass,” said Orseno of the 5-year-old gelding by Red Bullet. “He had a good series of races last summer and we thought about going in the Breeders’ Cup Marathon, but we were afraid of the European horses on that Polytrack (Pro-Ride) and it turns out we were right.”

Phil the Power won the $100,000 Kelso Stakes last August at Delaware Park and was second to division leaders Evening Attire and Delosvientos in two other long-distance affairs before going back to the turf for the Sycamore Stakes (G3) at Keeneland in October. He followed a ninth-place finish there with a similar result in the W.L. McKnight Handicap (G2) on Calder’s turf course on Dec. 13.

“We just need to keep him off the grass,” said Orseno. “Last year we got him going at Monmouth and it turned out all right. We’ll see if we have to do the same thing this year or hopefully get him started sooner.”

Another Orseno-trainee looking for a prep race is Garland Williamson’s Cool Gator. The 4-year-old son of Macho Uno was last seen finishing fifth in the Florida Derby (G1) behind Big Brown, and returns Saturday in a one-mile allowance with the goal ahead the $500,000 Donn Handicap (G1) on Sat., Jan. 31.

“We’ve been trying to get a prep to go,” said Orseno, who handled Cool Gator’s preparation in South Florida last year for trainer Danny Vella. “He’s training very well and we just need to get a race into him.”

Cool Gator was a leading contender for the $1 million Queen’s Plate at Woodbine last June until an injury in his left front leg knocked him out for the rest of the year.

Yesbyjimminy Seeks Better Sunshine Millions Trip than Stablemates

Trainer Eddie Plesa will be hoping for a better Sunshine Millions experience at Santa Anita this year than last when he runs Trilogy Stable’s 4-year-old Florida homebred Yesbyjimminy in the $300,000 Sprint on Sat., Jan. 24.

Yesbyjimminny will be bidding for a seventh consecutive victory when he heads west for the annual California/Florida showdown held at both Santa Anita and Gulfstream Park, and a try at erasing the nightmare two Plesa-trained stars – Gottcha Gold and Electrify – endured in their attempts last year.

“Neither ran well at all,” said Plesa Thursday morning outside his Gulfstream barn. Electrify finished eighth and Gottcha Gold ninth in the Classic amid travel and training difficulties hampered by wet weather. “They didn’t handle the trip. They didn’t handle the track. I’m hoping that things will even out. As bad as things went for them last year, things have to be super good for him this year.”

Yesbyjimminy has already been super good lately. He enters the six-furlong contest over the Pro-Ride artificial surface having dominated six straight sprints at Calder dating back to July. He’s won four consecutive stakes, including the $100,000 Kenny Noe Handicap (G3) on Dec. 13 in his last race.

“I wish the race was here, but he’s doing very well,” said Plesa. “I’m hoping he at least takes to the surface better than my horses did last year. That’s the main question right now.”

Centaur Farms’ multiple Graded stakes-winner Gottcha Gold would have been pointed to the Sunshine Millions Classic again this season, but the owners decided to retire him to Ocala Stud before trying to make amends for last year.

“They felt it was an important time to showcase him based on what he had achieved,” said Plesa of the winner of the 2008 Skip Away Handicap (G3) here and runner-up in the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

Tale of Ekati to Return in Richter Scale

Charles Fipke’s multiple Grade I winner Tale of Ekati posted his latest workout Thursday morning at Gulfstream Park ahead of a planned 2009 debut in the $150,000 Richter Scale Stakes (G2) here on Feb. 14.

Trainer Barclay Tagg says the seven-furlong sprint will be the jumping off point for a trip to Dubai and the $1 million Godolphin Mile (G2) on Sat., Mar. 28 on the Dubai World Cup undercard.

“He’s got two goals at this point,” said Tagg. “We’ve filled out the paper work to go to Dubai. We could also stay in the ‘States’ and point to the Met Mile, and we would use the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2 – Mar. 14) to get there, but for now we’re looking at Dubai.”

A 4-year-old Kentucky homebred, Tale of Ekati exits a controversial victory in the Cigar Mile (G1) at Aqueduct Nov. 29 when he was placed first after the disqualification of Harlem Rocker. He also won the Wood Memorial (G1) last spring at Aqueduct before finishing a respectable fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) behind Big Brown.

The Thursday workout was Tale of Ekati’s second this year after a break in December. Clockers caught the son of Tale of the Cat breezing a half-mile in 48 4/5.

Tagg is also in the familiar position of training a top 3-year-old prospect in Elizabeth Valando’s Hello Broadway. The runner-up in the Nashua Stakes (G3) at Aqueduct on Nov. 2 is training for his season debut in the $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes (G2) on Jan. 30.

That seven-furlong race would be the start of a three-race progression winding through the one-mile $250,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) on Feb. 28, and the $750,000 Florida Derby (G1) on Mar. 28.

“I’d prefer to get him three races and then have five weeks to get ready for the (Kentucky) Derby,” said Tagg. “He’s a big, strong, good-looking horse and developing nicely.”

Tagg unveiled several 3-year-old stars last winter at Gulfstream and eventually started two horses in the Derby. He says his barn has similar young talent this season.

“We’ve got some young stock that has taken their time to develop,” he said. “I don’t like to brag on them until they show what they can do, but we feel excited about them.”

Gleaves Sends Out Contenders for Both Weekend Turf Stakes

Trainer Phil Gleaves is ready to go full-tilt on grass this weekend with Quantum Racing Team’s Mambo Meister in Saturday’s $100,000 Fort Lauderdale Stakes and Joe Straus II and Andrew Novak’s Alpha Charmer in Sunday’s $100,000 Marshua’s River Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Gleaves said Tuesday morning that “its time to see” where Mambo Meister, a 4-year-old gelded son of King Cugat, fits in turf stakes after a successful run last year racing on dirt for the most part, featuring three victories during the campaign.

"We've been dying to see him back on the grass," said Gleaves. "The pedigree screams turf and suggests he'll get better as he gets older."

Mambo Meister is coming off a win in an optional/allowance Nov. 21 at Calder that marked his return to grass racing for the first time in nine starts. He won a pair of $32,000 overnight stakes at Calder on the main track, but was also rained out of two attempts to try the grass sooner than his last race.

“We had to stay on the dirt because he was a 3-year-old and that’s what’s expected,” said Gleaves. “But the light really went on in his last race. Now we have to take him to the next level. The sky’s the limit with that pedigree, but now we have to see.”

Alpha Charmer, a 4-year-old Kentucky homebred daughter of Alphabet Soup, is in a similar situation as her male stablemate as they both attack the weekend’s 1 1/16 miles turf contests. She is in good form with a win and a second-place finish in her last two allowance starts. She’s won stakes, capturing the $75,000 Georgia Oaks in July at Calder, but Sunday’s contest represents a bigger test.

“She’s won a restricted stakes and held her own,” said Gleaves. “It’s time to jump up and try to find out what she’s made of and see where they all fit.”