Fred Bradley's Brass Hat and Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift, the local stars that could be the favorites for Saturday's 25th running of the $750,0000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, turned in their final major pre-race preps on Tuesday with training moves at Trackside Louisville training center. The Stephen Foster Handicap is the main event on a roster of six stakes races on "Stephen Foster Super Saturday" at Churchill Downs. The stakes races carry purses of $1.75 million, a total that ranks "Super Saturday" as the second-richest day of stakes competition at Churchill Downs, trailing only Kentucky Derby Day.The Murray Johnson-trained Perfect Drift, winner of the Stephen Foster Handicap in 2003, breezed four furlongs in :50.20 over a "fast" surface at Trackside. Regular workout partner Joe Deegan was in the saddle for the move, which ranked sixth out of nine at the distance over the six-furlong track."He worked really well, was happy and keen, and finished like a bullet," said Johnson. "He went the first three-eighths in :39 and then flew home."
Perfect Drift will be looking for his first win of his 7-year-old season in the Stephen Foster, which also be his first start since a troubled run behind English Channel in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) on Kentucky Derby Day. He finished last in the field of 10 in the Woodford Reserve.
Along with his victory over eventual "Horse of the Year" Mineshaft in the 2003 Stephen Foster Handicap, Perfect Drift has finished third in the race in each of the past two years. The veteran earner of more than $4.3 million recently missed a few days of training with a tender foot, but Johnson believes that Perfect Drift is entering this year's renewal of the Foster as well as any of those previous years.
"He's doing good," said Johnson. "He seems to have really blossomed and done well between the last race and this race, and that's all we can ask."
Johnson's veteran son of Dynaformer brings a career record of 11-10-6 in 37 races into the Foster. Jockey Mark Guidry has the mount.
Perfect Drift breezed just after the mid-morning break for track maintenance, which was also the time that Brass Hat hit the track for a strong two-mile gallop that served as his final major training move for his first bid for the Stephen Foster.
Trainer William "Buff" Bradley, the son of owner/breeder Fred Bradley, had felt that the 5-year-old gelded son of Prized had done so well in recent weeks that a gallop with a strong finish would be sufficient to have him ready for a top effort on Saturday.
"He went two miles and the last three-eighths he went in about :39-and-change," said Bradley. "It was good."
Exercise rider Jeffrey Lopez was in the irons for the gallop. With his serious work now done, Bradley is looking forward to Saturday's race and the opportunity to provide his father - the former Kentucky state senator who runs the family's farm near Frankfort, Ky. - a most memorable Father's Day gift.
"I feel great," said Bradley. "I wouldn't trade with anybody. He's doing well."
Brass Hat, who launched his career in a $15,000 claiming race at Turfway Park, will be running for the first time since his runner-up finish to Electrocutionist in the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I). His career record stands at 6-5-1 in 14 races with earnings of $2,417,090. Willie Martinez will rider Brass Hat in Saturday's race.Also working in preparation for the Stephen Foster Handicap was Wild Desert. The Richard Dutrow, Jr.-trained winner of the 2005 Queen's Plate (CAN-I) at Woodbine breezed an easy four furlongs over a "fast" track at Churchill Downs in :52.40.
The son of Wild Rush finished second to Gouldings Green in his most recent start in the Alysheba Stakes on Kentucky Oaks Day.
The field for the Foster picked up another candidate on Tuesday when trainer Patrick Biancone informed Churchill Downs officials that Flying Zee Stable's Cosmonaut would run in Saturday's race.
The 4-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid is coming off a fourth-place finish over "muddy" ground behind Magnum in the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III) on May 29.
Cosmonaut, who will be ridden in the Foster by apprentice Julien Leparoux, has a record of 3-3-1 in 13 races and earnings of $237,755. His most recent win came in the Golden Gate Fields Handicap (GIII) in March.
The prospective field for the 25th running of the Stephen Foster Handicap (with assigned weights) includes Brass Hat (121), Buzzards Bay (121), Perfect Drift (118), Love of Money (115), Master Command (115), Wild Desert (115), West Virginia (114), Wiggins (114), Cosmonaut (113), M B Sea (113) and Seek Gold (112).