Perfect Drift, winner of last year's Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap (gr. II), appears ready to return to the winner's circle for this year's edition of the 1 1/4-mile race. The 68th running of the $750,000 guaranteed race will take place on Saturday and has drawn a field of seven in the richest dirt race in Illinois.
Perfect Drift, trained by Murray Johnson, has been installed as the 4-5 morning line choice. Although winless from six starts on the year, Perfect Drift ran second four times and was third once. He comes in off three second-place finishes.
Perfect Drift was beaten a nose by Roses in May in the Aug. 7 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, and followed that performance up with a good second to Pleasantly Perfect in the Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I). Perfect Drift drew the four hole for the Gold Cup and will be ridden by regular rider Pat Day.
Powerful Touch may be the next top handicap runner for trainer Bobby Frankel. The 4-year-old has won six of 10 career starts. He comes into the Gold Cup off three straight New York victories and most recently defeated Toccet in an optional claiming/allowance race at Saratoga Sept. 6.
Trainer Thomas Van Berg sends out Sonic West, who is seeking his third stakes victory of the year, having won the Razorback Handicap (gr. III) and Bosselman/Gus Fonner Stakes. In his last start, he was a good third in the Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap (gr. II) at Turfway Park to winner Roses in May.
Trainer Elliott Walden's Quest Star turns back to the dirt after putting together a string of turf starts. He has only one win in 2004, but it was a gutsy victory in the Pan American Handicap (gr. IIT) at Gulfstream.
Kissin Saint, trained by Lisa Lewis, makes his sixth start of the year and will be trying for his second victory of 2004. Stepping up to face stakes runners for the first time this year, Kissin Saint makes his second start off a rest after running fifth behind Powerful Touch at Saratoga.
Freefourinternet is another turning back to the dirt after four recent turf races. He'll be looking to close from well off the pace. In his last start, he closed to grab a good win in the Sept. 6 Labor Day Handicap at Mountaineer Park. He is trained by Michael Maker.
Caiman rounds out the field as the local threat looks to pull off the upset. A winner twice on the year, the Angel Medina trainee narrowly missed winning the Forward Pass Stakes at Arlington in mid-August.
The Hawthorne Gold Cup Handicap:
Post Position Jockey Odds
1. Quest Star - Larry Melancon - 6-1
2. Powerful Touch - C.H. Marquez, Jr. - 9-2
3. Caiman - Emanuel Cosme - 30-1
4. Perfect Drift - Pat Day - 4-5
5. Kissin Saint - Chris Emigh - 12-1
6. Freefourinternet - Greta Kuntzweiler - 15-1
7. Sonic West - Eusebio Razo, Jr. - 5-1