Steve Haskin's Breeders' Cup Longshots
Photo: Skip Dickstein
Breeders' Cup Classic longshot Perfect Drift eyes the scene at Lone Star Park earlier this week.
If there is one sure thing when it comes to the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships it's that you can count on several longshots coming in, with one or two monster-priced horses lighting up the tote board. So, once again, here are several bombs to keep an eye on.

CLASSIC – On the surface, it appears likely that one of the top four contenders – Pleasantly Perfect, Ghostzapper, Roses in May, and Birdstone will emerge victorious. Also, there will be many Azeri fans sticking with their hero, despite the knocks against her running here instead of the Distaff (gr. I). Also likely, is that a victory by any of the four, as well as Azeri, will earn them Horse of the Year honors. You can even put Funny Cide in that category now that last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness (gr. I) hero is back in everyone's good graces following his Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) victory.

Well, for all you Smarty Jones fans, don't give up hope. There are still questions marks surrounding all of the aforementioned horses, and there two longshots, both sons of Dynaformer, who can knock them out of the running.

They are Perfect Drift and Dynever, both of whom have done little or no winning this year, but are capable of upsetting this race, especially at a mile and a quarter, which is unknown territory for Ghostzapper and Roses in May.

Perfect Drift is winless in 2004, but don't let that stop you. Neither Volponi nor Cat Thief were exactly winning machines the year they upset the Classic. Perfect Drift was beaten a nose by Roses in May in the Whitney (gr. I), and he simply was too close to a 1:08 4/5 three-quarter fraction to sustain his move. He stuck his head in front, threw up his ears, and let Roses in May come back and beat him a nose.

He came back two weeks later, showing up at Del Mar for the Pacific Classic. The track and the race have been killers for Eastern shippers, and Perfect Drift ran a huge race to finish second, beaten a length, by Pleasantly Perfect. Pat Day simply waited too long, allowing Pleasantly Perfect to charge by him nearing the quarter pole and open up a daylight lead. By the time Day finally asked Perfect Drift for his run, he had no shot to catch the favorite, but was running strongly at the end.

He looked like a sure thing in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), but received an overconfident ride by Day, who kept him right with the leaders throughout and never set him down after putting them away. Suddenly, Freefourinternet, in receipt of nine pounds, came out of nowhere and roared right past him. If you think this horse doesn't know how to win, he certainly didn't seem deficient at it when he knocked off eventual Horse of the Year Mineshaft in last year's Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) after a gut-wrenching stretch battle, and wore down Congaree in the Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II).

He has run four straight good races after undergoing surgery this spring to free an entrapped epiglottis. Kent Desormeaux replaces Day, who is committed to Azeri, and you know Desormeaux, who has already won on Perfect Drift, will be aggressive and keep busy on him. Day has given Perfect Drift some excellent rides, but he fits Azeri, and Perfect Drift will not lose anything with the rider switch.

If you believe in vibes, then remember that not only did Perfect Drift go winless this year, so did his trainer, Murray Johnson. Well, the day after the Hawthorne Gold Cup, Johnson won his first race of the year, then won his next race. So, maybe, with that dubious steak over, Perfect Drift can end his as well.

He's already run in two Classics, tearing off a chunk of his foot when stepped on in 2002 and getting wiped out by Funny Cide going into the first turn last year. So, if there a horse who deserves to win this one it is Perfect Drift.

Finally, Perfect Drift looks fantastic. He's well muscled, his coat looks excellent, and he is training enthusiastically, while remaining nice and relaxed in his stall, in the gate and schooling in the paddock. All the elements seem to be coming together for a big effort. Even if you don't feel he can win, he looks like a live horse to fill the exactas and trifectas. But the feeling here is that he is worth a win bet.

As for Dynever, he also has several good angles going for him. He's the only horse in the Classic who has won at Lone Star, and his two best races have come at Santa Anita, which all the people in the know say is the closest thing to Lone Star.

This colt just shouts mile and a quarter, with names like Roberto, His Majesty, Le Fabuleux, and Vaguely Noble, all top-classic stamina influences, in his pedigree. He closed fast to finish third in last year's Classic as a 3-year-old, and if you look at him and feel there's too much leg and not enough muscle to him, remember how well he held his own last year against big, powerful older horses like Pleasantly Perfect, Medaglia d'Oro, and Congaree when he was noticeably slighter than he is now.

When he won the San Bernardino (gr. III) in his first start this year, he blew the doors off Even the Score and Total Impact, who came back and dominated the Hollywood Park meet, winning the Mervyn Leroy (gr. II), Californian (gr. II), and Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) between them. He became very ill with a toxic infection this summer and has been brought back slowly by Chris Clement. He came back off a three-month layoff to finish a fast-closing second in the Meadowlands Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II), a race in which he was second last year, as was Volponi in 2002.

His coat looks has a beautiful shine to it, he looks to be dead-fit, and like Perfect Drift, he is doing everything in a very professional manner. Unlike Perfect Drift, he still has to prove he's good enough to beat these kinds of horses, but at the price he's likely to be, he also looks like an excellent horse to put a win bet on and to play in the exotics. You can do a lot worse than taking both these horses and putting them in a trifecta box with the favorite of your choice.

A couple of other notes on the Classic: Whatever you may think of Azeri's chances, there is no horse who is handling this track any better. She has been tearing around there each morning, dragging her rider, while hitting the ground with long, powerful strides. And there is no horse who has shown more dramatic physical improvement than Funny Cide, who looks absolutely fantastic, and is bursting with dapples.


DISTAFF – Not having seen enough of these fillies and mares to make any physical observations, it must be noted that Island Fashion's race in the Lady's Secret (gr. II) was an amazingly gutsy effort coming off a layoff following a bizarre and inexplicable trip to Japan in June. Assuming she will improve off that effort, she should be pretty tough in here, as should Society Selection, who is training and looking very well.


JUVENILE FILLIES – The favorites looks pretty tough in here, but if you're looking for a real bomb, Dance Away Capote is coming off a super effort in the Alcibiades (gr. I) and could be a horse to reckon with. From a physical standpoint, Play With Fire has made an attractive appearance.


MILE – This is a total crap shoot, and it could come down simply to who gets lucky. Although he's not a longshot by means, Artie Schiller is doing as well as any horse on the grounds. He worked sensationally over a horrible track, he's in great physical form, and while schooling the paddock, he lashed out with a good 10 heavy-duty kicks as he walked around the ring. As for the longshots, Singletary is a big, rugged colt who is looking good and doing very well, and don't ignore Silver Tree, who will be a forgotten horse. He could be an interesting exotics horse. One of the best-looking Europeans on the grounds is Diamond Green.


SPRINT – Another total guess, but everything about Clock Stopper spells upset. Two very accomplished horses who may be overlooked are last year's winner Cajun Beat, whose race in the Vosburgh was much better than looks on paper, and Dubai grade I winner Our New Recruit, who has developed late into a top sprinter. Check out the early odds on these two if you can. They easily can slip through the cracks.


FILLY & MARE TURF – No real feelings here, as Ouija Board looks very strong and has really held her flesh well. Wonder Again has been training great. She shouldn't be a big price, but after drawing outside, she could be an overlay.


JUVENILE – The big four appear to dominate. Roman Ruler is one of the best looking young horses I've seen in a long time, and if he runs anywhere near his looks, he'll win this race. Look for big improvement from Sun King, who also is a super-looking individual and has been training very well. The unknown factor in here is Scandinavia. He's no Johannesburg, but is a classy colt who should really take to the dirt.


TURF – I stuck with Mustanfar for a long while on my Top 10 Kentucky Derby prospects, feeling he would improve dramatically at a mile and a quarter. He never made it to the Derby, but his first mile and a half race in the Sycamore Breeders' Cup (gr. III) was extremely impressive, and I loved the way he exploded in the stretch. On paper, he appears out-classed, but he could surprise a lot of people. One horse who should love this turf course is Request For Parole.

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