An even dozen, including seven graded winners, are entered Saturday for the $250,0000 Californian (gr. II) at Hollywood Park, led by 8-year-old Perfect Drift, a winner of $4.6 million in his lengthy career.
Perfect Drift will aim for his 12th career victory in the Californian, final major stepping-stone to the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on June 30, while attempting to end a 13-race losing skid.
Perfect Drift, who finished third in the 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) behind War Emblem and Proud Citizen , will be starting at his 13th track. The Kentucky-bred son of Dynaformer, who has started in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) five straight years with his best finish a third in 2005 at Belmont Park, faces a talented lineup in the Californian.
The field for the 1 1/8-mile race on Cushion Track includes 2005 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and 2006 Oaklawn Park Handicap (gr. II) winner Buzzards Bay, 2006 Hollywood Turf Cup (gr. IT) champion Boboman, 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner Wilko, and Kip Deville, the grade I winning turf specialist who was supplemented after finishing sixth in the Shoemaker Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) on Memorial Day.
Perfect Drift, trained by Murray Johnson for Dr. William Reed's Stonecrest Farm, will be re-united with jockey Jon Court for The Californian. Court took over for Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye after the 2002 Belmont Stakes (gr. I), guiding Perfect Drift to victory in that year's Indiana Derby (gr. III) at Hoosier Park -- the only time he has ridden him. Thirty-five starts and 4 1/2 years later, Court will be back aboard as Perfect Drift breaks from the inside post in the 1 1/8-mile Californian.
Court is one of a dozen jockeys to ride Perfect Drift, including Hall of Famers Delahoussaye, Pat Day and Gary Stevens -- all retired. Day enjoyed the most success, guiding Perfect Drift to four graded victories in 2003 - the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), the Washington Park Handicap (gr. II), the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) and the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II).
Perfect Drift, who came within a nose of winning the 2006 Stephen Foster (gr. I), had a frustrating campaign last year, finishing second in four of sevens starts. He finished fourth in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) after a third-place finish in 2005.
He arrived Wednesday and jogged on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track Thursday morning.
"He has always enjoyed shipping," said Johnson. "He likes to look around and see things. The Gold Cup was on the radar a couple of times but the timing didn't work out. This time it did."
Buzzards Bay, fourth in the 2006 Stephen Foster, finished third in the Mervyn LeRoy (gr. II) at Hollywood May 5 while making his first start in almost 10 months for trainer Ron Ellis and owner Gary Broad. He enters The Californian with five wins in 17 starts and earnings of $1.1 million.
Kip Deville, supplemented for a fee of $5,000, will be returning in five days if his connections elect to run.
"The Shoemaker didn't take much out of him and he has been training well on the (synthetic) track here," said Chip Dutrow, assistant to his brother, Richard Dutrow Jr. Kip Deville had won three straight graded races on turf prior to the Shoemaker and is 8-for-17 overall with earnings of $803,642.
J. Paul Reddam's Wilko, the second-richest horse in the field with earnings of $2.4 million, will be aiming for his first win since the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Lone Star Park -- 17 starts back. He was beaten less than a length while finishing third in the 2005 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) and the 2006 San Antonio Handicap (gr. II) and he was also third in the 2006 Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).
Eastern shipper Saint Stephen won his lone start at Hollywood in the 2006 Native Diver Handicap (gr. III).
Nine Californian winners have gone on to win the Gold Cup, the most recent Lava Man in 2005.
$250,000 Californian Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:50 p.m.), 3 & Up, 1 1/8 Miles (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Perfect Drift (KY), 116, Jon K. Court
2. Saint Stephen (KY), 118, Victor Espinoza
3. Porfido (CHI), 116, Joseph Talamo
4. Boboman (KY), 118, Alex O. Solis
5. Hockey the General (CA), 116, Martin Garcia
6. Jack's Wild (CA), 118, Brice Blanc
7. Sun Boat (GB), 116, Michael C. Baze
8. Wilko (KY), 116, Corey S. Nakatani
9. Buzzards Bay (FL), 116, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
10. Kip Deville (OK), 120, Mike E. Smith
11. Grand Point (KY), 116, Aaron T. Gryder
12. A. P. Xcellent (KY), 116, Richard Migliore