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Triple Crown newcomer Big Drama running under the radar

For the last several days, the dominant topic leading up to the Preakness Stakes has been a new shooter with early speed who has hit the wire first in a string of starts dating back to last season.

While the inspiration for that chatter has been Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, the same description could just as easily apply to Big Drama.

He might not be the most talked about contender to join the cast for the Preakness Stakes but, six months ago, few would have doubted Big Drama would find his way onto the Triple Crown trail.

In his seven career starts, about the only thing that has impeded Big Drama along the way has been himself.

After finishing third in his career debut, the colt rattled off five straight victories by a combined 193/4 lengths, including a 1-length triumph in the Grade III Delta Jackpot in December.

But before his 3-year-old debut in January, Big Drama put a dent in his Kentucky Derby hopes when he kicked himself in the shin while in his stall, suffering a bone bruise that eventually required surgery.

Big Drama returned to action in March and broke the 7-furlong track record at Gulfstream Park in the Grade II Swale Stakes, but he was disqualified and placed second after bumping This Ones for Phil in the stretch.

Although his connections could have gone ahead and put Big Drama in the Derby, they opted to look at the big picture.

"Kind of early on, we decided that we weren't going to go with the Derby, being that it's always a full field and ... that can be kind of a rough trip and may knock a horse out for the season," trainer David Fawkes said. "We thought the best thing we'd do would be to give this horse a shot. You know, all summer long, there's a lot of races in front of us.

"As far as the Preakness goes, it's exciting to get a shot to go in there. Anything we've asked him to do he has done."

For all the disappointment he felt when Big Drama suffered his shin injury, Fawkes said that setback might give the colt just the edge he needs to become a classic winner.

Unlike many of his potential Preakness rivals, Big Drama hasn't been through an arduous 3-year-old campaign to this point and doesn't bear any of the wear and tear from running in the Derby.

Bernardini (2006) and Red Bullet (2000) were the last two horses to win the Preakness after not starting in the Derby.

"Naturally, I think a fresh horse a lot of times has the advantage going into the Preakness," Fawkes said. "That's why we have seen so many spoilers of the Triple Crown. And this horse especially, he does really well with time in between races."

In addition to not running in the Derby, Big Drama boasts one other thing in common with Rachel Alexandra — running style.

Big Drama has been on or just off the lead in all of his starts, meaning he could find himself eyeball to eyeball with the runaway Oaks winner early on.

"With her running style, you know, I think she may hurt our chances," Fawkes said of Rachel Alexandra. "She is going to be really tough."

Good thing for Fawkes, Big Drama has already proved he has plenty of mettle in reserve.

"He's one of those super hard-trying horses. He always gives you 110 percent," Fawkes said. "In the afternoon, he always gives you 110 percent."

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