HALLANDALE BEACH, FL – Trainer David Fawkes was struck with a déjà-vu moment on the morning of Sept. 5 when he caught Tribal Drama napping in his stall at Gulfstream Park.
“He was sound asleep, just like his daddy used to do. His daddy was the same way; he’d go to sleep before his races. He’d get up, have a little breakfast and then lie back down again, which is great,” Fawkes said. “Those horses, I don’t know how they know. This horse has a good mind.”
Later that day, the well-rested son of champion Big Drama registered a victory in the $300,000 Affirmed Division of the Florida Sire Stakes series at Gulfstream.
Set to return in the $500,000 In Reality Division on Saturday’s $1.3 Million Florida Sire Stakes program, Hallmarc Racing’s Tribal Drama has won both of his career starts, but he has a long way to go if he’s going to match the accomplishments of his sire.
Trained by Fawkes, Big Drama earned $2.7 million in purses during a career that included a victory in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) in 2010. Honored with an Eclipse Award as the champion sprinter of 2010, the son of Montbrook concluded his 19-race career with 11 victories, including all three legs of the 2008 Florida Sire Stakes series.
“After he broke his maiden, we were pretty confident he’d win the first leg. Every time he won a leg, he was more impressive to me. I was pretty confident each time,” Fawkes recalled. “They said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be two-turns this time. It’s going to tougher.’ I wasn’t concerned at all. He was doing so good.”
Tribal Drama’s debut on Aug. 2 at Gulfstream Park came too late for him to participate in the first leg of the 2015 Florida Sires Stakes series ($200,000 Dr. Fager) Aug. 8, but the Florida-bred colt stepped up with a professional triumph in the seven-furlong Affirmed. After romping to a front-running 5 ¾-length score in his five-furlong debut, Tribal Drama rated just off the early pace along the backstretch, advanced on the turn to take the lead in the stretch, and held off the late challenge of Abercorn by a neck under jockey Eddie Castro.
Tribal Drama and his rivals will be asked to run around two turns for the first time in the 1 1/16-mile In Reality, which drew 14 entries and two also-eligibles. While it remains to be seen if the Florida-bred colt can extend his obvious quality around two turns, Fawkes certainly doesn’t expect any drama from his trainee.
“He’s a smart horse, which (Big) Drama was the same way – he was a smart horse,” Fawkes said. “He’s easy to work with. I expect the horse to rate and do what he’s supposed to do.
“He’s been really just an easy-going, easy-to-deal-with colt who always stays focused. There’s never been an issue. There are no real quirks about this horse,” he added.
Big Drama followed up his In Reality win with a score in the $750,000 Delta Jackpot (G3) around two sharp turns to conclude his juvenile season. During his 3-year-old campaign, he finished a solid fifth in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness (G3) despite being fractious in the gate, bobbling at the start and racing wide throughout. He finished a neck back in second and 1 ½ lengths ahead of Mine That Bird in the 1 1/8-mile West Virginia Derby (G2), but he truly came into his own at sprint distances during his 4-year-old and 5-year-old campaigns.
Tribal Drama excelled at sprint distances while winning the first two starts of his career and has the opportunity to show that he, like his sire, also possesses two-turn quality in the In Reality, in which he’s slated to face Affirmed runner-up Abercorn and Dream of Me, the $200,000 Dr. Fager winner who faded to fourth in the Affirmed after setting a pressured pace.
“You’ve got to think that the horse that ran second last time, Stanley Gold’s horse, will be closing again,” Fawkes said.
Gold and owner/breeder Jacks or Better Farm have entered four colts – Abercorn, Brighton Lane, Fellowship and Habersham Village – in the In Reality in pursuit of adding to their record win totals in the Florida Sire Stakes series. Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm and Gold have teamed for a record 17 triumphs in the FSS series for juveniles sired by accredited Florida stallions. (They ran their overall respective record FSS totals to 19 with two victories in this season’s inaugural series for 3-year-olds.)
An impressive 3 ½-length maiden winner in his third career start, Abercorn stalked the pace in the Affirmed, just behind Tribal Drama, before steadily gaining on the eventual winner, running out of ground at the wire.
“He’ll get two turns,” Gold said.
Abercorn is a son of Brooks n’ Down, a multiple stakes-placed stallion who is a half-brother to champion Awesome Feather, who swept the 2009 Florida Sire Stakes series for fillies and went on to capture the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1).
Brighton Lane also has family ties to a Florida Sire Stakes sweeper, being the full brother of Jackson Bend, a multiple Grade 1 stakes winner who swept the colts and geldings series in 2009 before going on to win $1.8 million in purses. Brighton Lane overcame early trouble to finish a late-closing third in the Dr. Fager before finishing sixth in the Affirmed.
Fellowship, who broke his maiden at first asking before finishing second in the Birdonthewire Stakes, has disappointed with fifth- and sixth-place finishes in the first two legs of the sire stakes. Habersham finished fourth in his only start.
Kathy Machesky’s Dream of Me, who finished 2 ¼ lengths clear of the competition in the Dr. Fager, will be seeking to rebound from a troubled fourth in the Affirmed. The Anna Varsi-trained son of High Cotton bobbled at the start and broke last of 10 from the starting gate before quickly dueling for the lead on the backstretch. On the turn and at the top of the stretch, he met a challenge from Tribal Drama before weakening late, to finish just over a length behind the winner.
George Kerr’s Li’l Meatball, a nine-length debut winner, will be seeking to improve on a fourth-place Dr. Fager finish and a late-closing third in the Affirmed.
Champion Equine’s Mr. Kisses, who finished second at 35-1 in the Dr. Fager, was entered for a bid to rebound from a last-place finish in the Affirmed. Golden Legacy Stable’s El Charro is set for his stakes debut following an impressive 4 ¾ maiden score at seven furlongs despite a slow start in his second career start.
Woodford Thoroughbred’s Pontius P. has shipped to Gulfstream after breaking his maiden at Delaware Park by 1 ¾ lengths in a 7 ½-furlong turf race.
Danbury, Call to Honor, Swagger Jagger, Behzad’s Pride, Alex the Dude and No More Chillin round out the 14-horse field. Bygeorgehedidit and Habersham Village are on the also-eligible list.