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‘Little Drama’ Surrounds Sunshine State Favorite
Little Drama stood docilely, basking in the early-morning South Florida sunshine, as he was being fitted with four new shoes Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
“He wasn’t always like that,” said trainer Michael Mareina, who’ll saddle Little Drama for a start in Sunday’s $100,000 Sunshine State. “He used to be kind of a nervous, hot horse. He seems to have calmed down and relaxed a lot more.”
A major contributing factor to Little Drama’s calmer demeanor is owner Harold Queen’s decision to geld his 4-year-old homebred before transferring him to Mareina’s stable during the summer. However, his veteran trainer still had more work to do to sweeten up the Florida-bred’s disposition.
“You got to know him. He’s kind of a funny horse. He’s a horse that requires a lot of attention, basically, one of those kids you have that requires more attention than the others,” Mareina said. “He needs to go out in the afternoons and graze. He needs to do things and see things. It seems to help him a lot when you do those kind of things with him.”
Little Drama, who also enjoys a Guinness in his feed at night, has responded with improved performance on the track. In his first start for Mareina, the gelded son of Burning Roma finished a solid second in a six-furlong allowance race at Saratoga on Aug. 2, which he followed up with a three-length triumph in a seven-furlong allowance at the Spa on Aug. 20. After finishing a pressured fourth in the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont in September, Little Drama came back to finish second in the seven-furlong Bold Ruler (G2) at Belmont on Oct. 27.
“Whatever we do, he’s seeming to be falling into it,” Mareina said. “He just seems like a happy horse now.”
Formerly trained by David Fawkes, Little Drama is a half-brother to Big Drama, whom Fawkes saddled for a victory in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Sprint that earned him an Eclipse Award as the country’s champion sprinter. Little Drama showed promise early in his career, breaking his maiden in the $100,000 Frank Gomez Memorial at Calder by more than nine lengths in his second lifetime start in July 2010. He went on to finish third in both the Swale (G3) and Hutcheson (G3) at Gulfstream the following year.
“I’m not taking anything away from David’s training,” Mareina said. “To tell you the truth, I don’t think he liked Calder, the deep track there, and he was training there. He won a Florida-bred stakes there as a 2-year-old but I don’t think he liked the surface there.”
Now training at Gulfstream, where he has posted two bullet workouts in recent weeks, Little Drama has been installed as the 5-2 morning-line favorite for Sunday’s Sunshine State. The seven-furlong distance of the stakes restricted to Florida-bred horses would seem to suit him.
“I think it’s his best distance. Look at his form, he’s won three races, finished second once and third twice in seven starts,” said Mareina, who regards Good Lord, the Forrest Kaelin-trained 5-year-old who has won four stakes in his last five starts, as the horse to beat.
Jesus Castanon will be aboard Little Drama for the first time in the Sunshine State, and Mareina is confident that the veteran jockey will fit his gelding.
“Jesus is my main rider. Down here at Gulfstream, he’s won be 18 or 20 races the last three years,” said Mareina, noting that Castanon had ridden Burning Roma in a few stakes victories. “Just the key with his horse is to keep his mental attitude right. He needs a rider who doesn’t mess with him a lot,” Mariena said. “The horse just doesn’t want to me messed with a lot. He tries hard. Whipping on him isn’t going to help him a lot.”
Little Drama couldn’t have made his trainer happier with the manner in which he’s acting for his return to action at Gulfstream.
“He’s gotten where he eats mints now. He never would eat them when I got them,” “He used to stand back in his stall and wouldn’t come forward. Now, he stays up in the front and nickers at you. He seems to be a happy horse.”
Little Distorted Sold and Soon to Move to New Stable
Little Distorted, a promising 2-year-old whom Mareina saddled for a sharp victory in his debut at Belmont Park on Oct. 28, has been sold and will be transferred to trainer Darrin Miller.
Kuhne Racing sold the son of Distorted Humor to Silverton Farm recently. Little Distorted will likely breeze once more at Gulfstream Park under Mareina’s guidance before joining Miller.
Little Distorted pressed a strong early pace before taking over the lead and withstanding a challenge by odds-on favorite Revolutionary, before drawing off to victory by more than two lengths. He ran six furlongs in 1:09.72.
“I felt like I was a couple works short of running him, but it was getting toward the end of the Belmont meeting and I told the owner, ‘I think we’ll fire him in here.’ I said I knew he’d hit the board, but I thought we were a work or two away. Then, he ran huge,” said Mareina, who noted that Little Distorted outworked Little Drama in company one day leading up to his debut. “He’s really, really talented. He just seems like a really nice horse.”
Sugar Swirl & South Beach Highlight Weekend
Fillies and mares take center stage for stakes action next weekend Dec. 8-9 at Gulfstream Park with renewals of the $100,00 Sugar Swirl Stakes (G3) at six furlongs on Saturday and $100,000 South Beach Stakes to be run at 7 ½ furlongs on turf Sunday.
Trainer Todd Pletcher holds a strong hand in the Sugar Swirl with two of the most accomplished nominees in his powerful stable – Stud TNT’s 4-year-old Dust and Diamonds, runner-up to probable Eclipse champion Groupie Doll last out in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1); and Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s 4-year-old multiple Grade 1 winner Turbulent Descent.
Trainer Marty Wolfson also has options with a trio of nominees, including Miller Racing’s 6-year-old Golden Mystery and Thoroughbred Futures Racing’s 4-year-old Nakano, second and third, respectively, behind 2011 Eclipse champion Musical Romance in the Mike Sherman Memorial at Calder on Oct. 6.
Trainer Wayne Catalano has two prospects owned by Peachtree Stable, including 3-year-old Sacristy, winner of the Old Hat Stakes (G3) over the track last New Year’s Day. The daughter of Pulpit got a break during the spring into late summer, making two starts since. She won an allowance race at Arlington Park in late August and finished a game second last out in the Raven Run Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on Oct. 20.
A full field is expected for the South Beach with 35 nominees with leading prospects including Frank Calabrese’s Romacaca, Peter Leidel’s Future Generation and Phipps Stable’ Abaco.
Romacaca is a 6-year-old daughter of Running Stag that was claimed here for $25,000 early in her 3-year-old campaign, and has gone on to become a top-class turf stakes mare with earnings of $866,000, most recently capturing the Indian Maid Stakes at Hawthorne on Oct. 6 for trainer Danny Miller.
Trainer Christophe Clement has a strong potential contender for the South Beach in 4-year-old Irish-bred Future Generation, fourth last out in the Matriarch Stakes (G1) at Hollywood Park on Nov. 25. The daughter of Hurricane Run won her American debut over the Gulfstream course in mid-February after campaigning in Europe the year before, winning a Group 3 stakes in Ireland.
Madame Giry Getting Ready
Nutmeg Stable’s 3-year-old Maryland-bred filly Madame Giry is nominated for the $100,000 South Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park to be run at 7 ½ furlongs on Sun., Dec. 9, but will pass on that spot, hopefully to make her next start sometime this month, according to trainer Cam Gambolati.
“She’s doing great and had a couple of works since we got here,” said Gambolati Saturday morning. “She’s won five straight sprinting around one turn and I want to keep her in those kind of races for now. I tried her going a mile at Belmont (fourth) in the spring, but at Belmont, the mile on turf is basically a one turn race.” The South Beach is a two-turn race.
A daughter of Castledale, Madame Giry finished fourth in an ‘off the turf’ maiden special debut here in early April before another fourth-place effort in the Belmont mile test when making here turf debut. She posted her only dull effort trying a two-turn mile at Monmouth Park in mid-May before her career made a sharp turn upward.
Gambolati shipped her back to Belmont to finish second in a seven-furlong sprint before launching the win streak, breaking her maiden at Belmont and winning a pair of allowance races at Saratoga. Madame Giry stepped up next to capture the Smart N Fancy Stakes at Belmont on Sept. 12 and then shipped to Keeneland to score in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes last out on Oct. 12.