"He's got the best page on the track."
So trainer Gerald Aschinger described his breakout stable star Dramedy. At that moment, he was not talking about any specific race; as of July 6, it remained undecided whether Dramedy would start in the Arlington Handicap (GIII) or the Stars and Stripes Stakes (GIII) on Million Preview Day this Saturday.
However, Aschinger's statement will ring true no matter which race he enters. Dramedy's breeding shines. His sire, Distorted Humor, is one of the flagship sires of WinStar Farm. He sired Classic winners Drosselmeyer and Funny Cide, Classic sire Flower Alley, and other Grade I winning millionaires like Hystericalady and Any Given Saturday. His dam, A. P. Indy mare She's a Winner, also produced Grade I winning millionaire Bluegrass Cat and multiple graded stakes winner Lord of the Game. Those are just her closest relatives; her female line traces directly back through Numbered Account to the legendary broodmare La Troienne.
Though Dramedy always had the right pedigree for a stallion, it took until this year for the six-year-old horse's race record to reflect the lofty promise of his bloodlines.
Though he won his debut at Aqueduct in November 2012 and followed that up with a third-place finish in allowance company at Santa Anita the next month, Dramedy did not return to the track until April of 2014. He started in allowance company three times, never finishing better than second, before being sold to John James in last year's Fasig-Tipton Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age sale.
Gerald Aschinger began training Dramedy last fall. Dramedy's first start in Aschinger's barn was also his graded stakes debut, a seventh-place finish in the 2014 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs. He needed just a little more time to come into his own. After some solid allowance-level runs through the winter at Tampa Bay Downs, he was ready for graded company again come spring.
On March 28 of this year, in the Appleton Stakes, (GIII), he made his best showing yet in stakes company: a fourth-place finish, beaten 3 3/4 lengths by War Correspondent.
His next race provided a completely new challenge. Leading into his April 18 start in the 1 1/2 mile Elkhorn Stakes (GII), Dramedy had never attempted a race longer than 1 1/8 miles. Aschinger noticed that Dramedy was often coming close, and had enough run at the end. He decided that it would be worth trying him going longer.
That gamble paid off. Dramedy stalked off of My Afleet early in the Elkhorn, and then struck the front. More proven horses like Dynamic Sky, Unitarian, Biz the Nurse, and Aldous Snow all tried to catch him. As the wire approached, the two-word chart comment encapsulated his game performance: "defied onslaught".
Dramedy wins his first graded stakes, the 2015 Elkhorn Stakes (GII) at Keeneland.
That race marked him as a long-distance turf runner to watch. However, not only the 1 1/2 mile Stars and Stripes Stakes but also the 1 1/4 mile Arlington Handicap have remained under serious consideration. The reason to consider the shorter race as well is less physical than mental, according to Aschinger. "The team, my assistant and the jockey, seems to think that he can do either now. We had difficulties with him early on not applying himself until the half marker. Now we’ve got him so that he comes out of the gate ready to race. I don’t know if it makes a big difference to us whether we go a mile and a quarter or a mile and a half, or a mile and an eighth."
If Dramedy has one vice in his recent training, it is that some days he runs a little too fast for Aschinger's taste. "He’s been training really well at Arlington. It was our first experience with him on the Polytrack. He seems to love it. He’s had several bullet works. We’re trying to discourage that. He seems to get his way with us once in a while."
Unlike so many six-year-olds still in training, Dramedy is an intact horse. In addition to his regal breeding and his improving race record, Aschinger sees even more to make him an attractive stud prospect. "Disposition-wise, he’s like our best pal. He’s just a wonderful horse to be around. He’s got a quick turn of foot, and he can go a distance. He’s an ideal candidate."
Owner John James purchased Dramedy in 2014 at the Fasig-Tipton Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age sale. Gerald Aschinger was instrumental in that transaction. "It so happens that the client that was selling him is also a farm client. We had a close up relationship with Dramedy from the get-go. And, that’s probably what led us to draw John James into the picture. We kind of knew he was a nice horse, he was a special horse. He was the whole package, and since we were selling him as consignors, it was an easy crossover to have John buy him."
Though James is based in Oklahoma, Aschinger noted that he would stand a stallion in Kentucky if his record merited it. As for Dramedy, Aschinger "would think that with a little bit more success, he would certainly qualify as a Kentucky stallion." If Dramedy moves forward this summer, he could punch that ticket to Kentucky right here at Arlington.
In addition to Dramedy, Aschinger also has fast-improving four-year-old filly Lots o' Lex primed for this Saturday's Modesty Handicap. This four-year-old daughter of Kitalpha was unraced until October of her three-year-old year. She made a big first impression in stakes company: in the Endeavour Stakes (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs on January 31, she finished third beaten only a length as a 76/1 longshot.
According to Aschinger, Lots o' Lex is continuing to get better. "She improved after every start. She may not always win, but she always seems to lay it down and improve in different ways. She’s a wonderful team player with her jockey [Rosemary Homeister, Jr.] now. We just couldn’t be happier with her."
Lots o' Lex ran at Arlington on June 7 in a conditioned turf mile allowance against a field that included local stakes horses Compelling Case and Rosie My Rosie. Lots o' Lex won by 3 1/4 decisive lengths, and Aschinger noted that she showed a new side of herself in her Modesty prep. "She ran a wonderful allowance race. For the first time she relaxed under the jockey’s hand and gave it 100% in the stretch. We’re happy about her timing, we’re happy about her endurance, and she seems happy to race."
She is a daughter of the late stallion Kitalpha. He has high hopes that Lots o' Lex will continue to get better. "That’s very typical of Kitalphas," Aschinger said in reference to her improvement at age four. "They’re all late horses."
Kitalpha himself was unraced, but regally bred: by the pivotal stallion Mr. Prospector out of two-time Breeders' Cup Mile winner Miesque. He began his stud career in Zimbabwe, but stood from 2008 through 2012 at War Horse Place: Aschinger's farm.
As someone who has both bred and run many Kitalpha offspring, Aschinger believes his filly rates well among them. Among the Kitalpha offspring still in training, he ranks three among the best: 2013 Appalachian Stakes (GIII) winner Unbelievable Dream, multiple stakes winner Kharafa, and Lots o' Lex. "Lots o’ Lex is showing more potential than the other two at this point. She has yet to prove herself in a Grade III, but I have high, high hopes for her in the Modesty."
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