Multiple graded stakes winner Perfect Drift is a clear standout in a six-horse field for Sunday's 67th running of the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) at Hawthorne Race Course.
The purse for the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup was boosted by $250,000 in 2003, making it the richest race on the dirt in Illinois.
Perfect Drift, the 4-year-old son of Dynaformer, makes his 17th career start in the Gold Cup, developing into one of the top handicap horses in the country.
Owned by Stonecrest Farm and trained by Murray Johnson, Perfect Drift has already surpassed the $1 million mark in 2003, winning four of six starts. Perfect Drift pulled off an upset victory in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill on June 14. After a month off, he came back with an easy win in the Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) at Arlington July 19. After a flat effort on the grass in the Arlington Million (gr. IT), he returned with an impressive win over Congaree just two weeks ago in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II). Perfect Drift has been set as the morning line favorite at 1-1 with Pat Day in the saddle.
One that Perfect Drift will need to chase down is Tenpins. Lightly raced in 2003, Tenpins will be trying to make the 1 ¼ mile distance for the first time in his career. Owned by Joseph Vitello and trained by Donald Winfree, this 5-year-old son of Smart Strike is two for two on the year, with a pair of graded stakes victories.
He opened his season on July 12 with a very game victory in the Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) at Prairie Meadows. He would came back six weeks later to hold off Aeneas while winning the Philip Iselin Breeder's Cup Handicap (gr. III) on Aug. 23. Tenpins comes into the race a winner of nine of 13 career starts for earnings of $938,689. He is the second choice in the morning line at 9-5 and will be ridden by Robby Albarado.
Though winless in 2003, Aeneas has been stakes-placed in three graded events this year. The 4-year-old colt owned by Patricia Pavlish and trained by Martin Wolfson has won at the 1 ¼-mile distance in his career and finished second at this distance on March 29 in the Gulfstream Park Handicap (gr. II). After a poor effort in the Pimlico Special (gr. I), he came back to post back-to-back second-place finishes in the Washington Park Handicap and the Philip Iselin. Third choice in the Gold Cup, Aeneas is 5-1 in the morning line as Gary Boulanger takes the mount. $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), 3 & up, 1 1/4 mile
PP. HORSE, JOCKEY, TRAINER, M/L
1. San Pedro, Earlie Fires, Joseph E. Broussard, 10-1
2. Aeneas, Gary Boulanger, Martin D. Wolfson, 5-1
3. Tenpins, Robby Albarado, Donald R. Winfree, 9-5
4. No Comprende, C.H. Marquez Jr., J.J. Smith, 12-1
5. Scooter Roach, Jesse Campbell, Michele Boyce, 30-1
6. Perfect Drift, Pat Day, Murray W. Johnson, 1-1