Gulfstream Record Holder Big Drama Ready For Saturday's Vosburgh
By New York Racing Association
ELMONT, N.Y. – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and owner Nicholas Brady’s Mill House have one primary goal for their outstanding colt Trappe Shot – to see him in the winner’s circle following a Grade 1 race.
At Saratoga this past month, they came up a nose shy when Trappe Shot just missed nailing runaway front-runner Sean Avery on the wire in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap. On Saturday, the 4-year-old son of Tapit will try again when he competes in the 73rd running of the Grade 1 $350,000 Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park, one of the premier six-furlong races in the country for 3-year-olds and up.
Widely considered one of the best colts in the country, Trappe Shot likely will have to run the race of his life as the Vosburgh is shaping up as a fearsome test. The race has attracted 2010 champion sprinter Big Drama, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Grade 1-winning speedball Euroears, Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap winner Giant Ryan and a plethora of other dangerous runners.
Part of the “Super Saturday” card, the Vosburgh is a “Win and You’re In” race for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 5 at Churchill Downs. It will be broadcast live on ESPN Classic and ESPN3.com from 4:30 – 6 p.m. EDT along with the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Kelso.
Trappe Shot finished ahead of Vosburgh rivals Apriority and Calibrachoa in the Vanderbilt, but McLaughlin recognizes the field’s quality and size make this no easy task.
“We’re ready to go, and we’re happy with him,” McLaughlin said of Trappe Shot. “There are some new shooters. It’s a quality race, and it’s a Grade 1, and you’re going to have a tough field. It’s a shame we lost the last one by a nose. We need to win a Grade 1 because he’s a Grade 1 horse.”
McLaughlin knows Trappe Shot, the 9-5 favorite choice on the morning line and undefeated in three starts at Belmont Park, has the talent to win the Vosburgh, but the trainer is concerned about getting a clean start to get in position in a field of nine.
“Any time you have [nine] horses, it’s traffic,” McLaughlin said. “You break sharp and hope you don’t get in traffic trouble. Yes, he’s broken awkwardly at the gate. His last couple races he’s broken well, but it’s an issue you always have to think about.”
Trappe Shot figures to have to be at his very best to defeat Big Drama, who trainer David Fawkes said is coming into the Vosburgh in superb condition.
The 5-year-old son of Montbrook has raced only twice this year following his championship season, but both efforts have resulted in victory.
Big Drama, 2-1 on the morning line, won the Grade 3 Mr. Prospector on January 15 at Gulfstream Park by four lengths, recording a sensational 120 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that has not been surpassed in any race this year. Fawkes chose to give his ace more than seven months off after the effort, while insisting nothing was physically wrong with the horse.
Big Drama returned to the races in the Whippleton Stakes on September 4 at Calder Race Course and easily defeated three overmatched rivals by 2 ¼ lengths. While the race went in moderate time, Fawkes considered it an ideal set-up for the Vosburgh.
“As far as Big Drama goes I’m very confident. He’s doing super good,” said Fawkes, who also will send out Apriority, runner-up earlier this year in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap and fourth in the Vanderbilt. “If [Big Drama’s performance in the Whippleton] was too good it might have me worried, but off a layoff and the level of fitness I had him, I thought it was a perfect race. Calder was nice enough to write that race for him. He only worked five-eighths one time [beforehand]. He had galloped probably 30 or 40 days at the farm before he came in. So he was fit.”
Fawkes hopes the Vosburgh will be a springboard for Big Drama to have an opportunity to defend his Breeders’ Cup Sprint title.
“This is the Breeders’ Cup pre-Breeders’ Cup,” he said.
2010 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez will ride Big Drama for the first time, while Alex Solis picks up the mount on Apriority.
Euroears, 4-1, always a fast horse, has risen to a new level since being transferred into the care of Baffert. In three starts since, the 7-year-old son of Langfuhr has won the Grade 2 Palo Verdes Handicap at Santa Anita, finished second to the brilliant Singapore star Rocket Man in the Grade 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, and whipped top West Coast sprinters Smiling Tiger and Amazombie in the Grade 1 Bing Crosby in July at Del Mar.
“He is doing great,” Baffert said. “He’s a very fast horse, and we’re just hoping for a fast track.”
Trainer Todd Pletcher sends out two runners for Repole Stable, Calibrachoa and Caixa Eletronica, who will compete as a coupled entry at 10-1.
The former, who overcame sore hooves earlier this year, returned to top form in his most recent start when a close-up third in the Vanderbilt. The winner of back-to-back Grade 3 sprints at Aqueduct this past winter posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 107 in the Vanderbilt and has trained well since then.
Caixa Eletronica turns back to six furlongs following a victory at 1 1/8 miles in a starter handicap August 26 at Saratoga.
“Calibrachoa, he ran a huge race in the Vanderbilt,” Pletcher said. “He was chasing the whole way and dug in gamely inside the eighth pole. I thought he might get there . . . He runs hard every time and likes Belmont. We’re optimistic he’ll run well in what appears to be by far the best sprint race of the year. Whoever wins this race will probably come out and be the favorite in the Breeders’ Cup.”
The contention runs deeper: Force Freeze, trained by Peter Walder, enters the Vosburgh off a four-length victory in the Teddy Drone Stakes on July 31 at Monmouth, a race in which he defeated top sprinters Jersey Town and Ravalo; Giant Ryan has won five straight for trainer Bisnath Parboo, including the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap in July; and Justin Phillip won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens on June 11 and is undefeated in both his starts at Belmont Park.