Perfect Drift, a millionaire three times over, hadn't won a stakes in 22 months. But thanks to an aggressive move by jockey Mark Guidry, the 6-year-old gelding brought his drought to an end in the $300,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) Saturday.
Guidry, riding the 11-time winner for the first time for trainer Murray Johnson, found a bit of space between the leader Billy Allen and the fading Cryptograph in upper stretch and managed to squeeze through. He pulled away to a convincing 4 1/2-length victory over six tiring rivals.
Saturday's win was the second in the Washington Park for Perfect Drift, who captured the race under Pat Day in 2003.
With a time of 1:54 1/5, Perfect Drift took four ticks off the Arlington main track record set three years ago by Tenpins. Perfect Drift, who won nearly $1 million without a win in nine starts in 2004, won his first stakes since taking the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) Sept. 28, 2003.
Stuck on the inside, the 1-2 favorite Perfect Drift stalked the leaders but lost position when forced to steady on the far turn with nowhere to go and was shuffled back to sixth coming into the stretch. Guidry angled out slightly and waited for something to develop in front, swinging his mount into gear when it did.
"Shaun (Bridgmohan) was on Billy Allen to the outside of us and he was riding a smart race," said Guidry, who also won this race in 1996 aboard Polar Expedition. "He knew where I was all the time and he did a good job of keeping me down in there. They kind of came back to me a little quicker than I anticipated in the middle of the turn and I had to check pretty sharply. Once we turned into the lane, I went inside of him. His acceleration today was brilliant."
Mambo Train, who fell back after fighting Cryptograph through early splits of :24 2/5, :48 and 1:11 5/5, came on again late to nip Home of Stars by a half-length for second with the Irish-bred Billy Allen a head back in fourth.
Perfect Drift earned $180,000 for owner Stonecraft Farm, pushing his earnings to $3,473,040.
Next up for Perfect Drift is a possible engagement in the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) at Del Mar on Aug. 21.
"Today was a big step forward," Johnson said. "If all goes well between now and three weeks, we hope to be in Del Mar for the Pacific Classic."
The 120-pound high weight paid $3, $2.20 and $2.10. Mambo Train, ridden by E.T. Baird, returned $7.40 and $5.80. Hour of Stars, James Graham aboard, was $4.40 to show.
"He ran a good race," said Baird. "He was on the lead all the way. I started getting into him on the middle of the turn and they all started to go by me but I came again."
Freefourinternet, Fantasticat and Cryptograph trailed.