Perfect Drift: The Forgotten Derby Horse
by Dan Liebman
Date Posted: 10/24/2002 2:58:54 PM
Last Updated: 10/24/2002 3:49:35 PM

There are five horses from this year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) set to run Saturday in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). That is the most ever, the previous high being three, most recently in 1999.

The big four are War Emblem, Medaglia d'Oro, Came Home and Harlan's Holiday. Then there is "the forgotten horse," as his trainer referred to him Thursday morning in his tack room in barn 9B on the Arlington backside.

Murray Johnson was speaking of Perfect Drift, who ran third in the Derby, beaten 4¾ lengths by War Emblem and Proud Citizen.

"I'm not surprised to see the 3-year-olds in here because it was obvious all along that the handicap division was a bit weak this year," Johnson said. "I think I'm the forgotten one in the bunch, but he's proven he's up there with these horses. He's one of a number of horses that has continued running at a top level."

Following the Derby, Perfect Drift ran 10th in the Belmont after being steadied by Eddie Delahoussaye in the first turn.

"He got a little despondent when he had to check, and he never went back to running," Johnson said. "Now he is more mature. The blinkers have helped with that."

Johnson added blinkers in Perfect Drift's return race following the Belmont, the Oct. 5 Indiana Derby (gr. III).

"After the Belmont, he walked for 30 days, then jogged on the machine at the farm, then returned to jogging at the track before returning to galloping. He never really went out of training."

Perfect Drift won the Indiana Derby and Johnson started planning for the Classic. He had a small bump in the road when a foot problem developed last week.

"Last Thursday his left front had some heat and pressure, so we soaked it," he said. "We used the magnetic pulse machine and soaked it in hot water and Epsom salt. When the farrier took the shoe off, he pared off just a little and squeezed the foot. A pin-size puss pocket was visible. It has responded to medication and now the foot is fine."

The foot problem forced Johnson to delay Perfect Drift's last work a day, from Monday until Tuesday.

"That was the key day, to see how he worked and how the foot looked afterward. Everything was fine."

Johnson, a 42-year-old native of Australia, lives near Louisville, Ky., where he owns a farm and trains at Trackside, the old Sports Spectrum training center owned by Churchill Downs. Perfect Drift is his first Breeders' Cup starter.

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