Perfect Drift makes Sunday stop in Pacific Classic on the way to Breeders' Cup in October.

Perfect Drift makes Sunday stop in Pacific Classic on the way to Breeders' Cup in October.

Skip Dickstein

Classic Hope Perfect Drift Better Than Ever

(from Del Mar notes)
At an age when older stakes horses usually head downhill, 6-year-old gelding Perfect Drift stands out because he just might be better than ever.

He'll try the $1 million Pacific Classic (gr. I) for a second time on Sunday and, if he continue to do well, he'll probably be heading to the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) starting gate for the fourth time.

Perfect Drift has amassed earnings of $3,473,040 with 11 wins in 31 career starts during a career that began in November 2001. His impressive 4 1/4-length win in the Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) at Arlington snapped a 12-race losing streak against stakes company. Always competitive against strong competition – the son of Dynaformer earned nearly $950,000 in 2004 with five seconds and two thirds in nine starts – his last stakes win came in the Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II) in September 2003.

Trainer Murray Johnson credits attentiveness for extending Perfect Drift's racing career. "Good management and good care, coupled with an owner who allows us to stop on him whenever a little problem occurs and take care of it so it doesn't turn into a big problem. He's had a number of things come along, but a good owner will let you take care of them properly and get them behind you before you go forward."

Dr. William A. Reed, who owns Stonecrest Farm in Kansas City, is the breeder as well. Each year when Perfect Drift is rested, he goes to Stonecrest to romp in big, grassy paddocks and enjoy a horse's life. The only time the bay didn't get his end-of-the-year break, Johnson said, was when he was heading into his 3-year-old year.

That reasoning made sense. "Because of his quality," Johnson said, "we felt we had a good shot at getting into some of the early 3-year-old races." He won the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park and finished third to War Emblem in the 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I).

Johnson also credits his training venue – Churchill Downs' off-site training facility Trackside about six miles from the home track.

"He trains on a tremendous surface at Trackside and that has helped him stay sound and stay around for a long time," Johnson said. "It's a very consistent surface, and they do a fabulous job of keeping it good for us in the morning. They don't have to be concerned with the afternoon. And there's much less traffic – only about 500 horses on the grounds at capacity."

And then, of course, there's the horse himself. "He's very, very consistent and really is a remarkable animal. Most of the credit goes to him for being the incredible animal that he is."

Perfect Drift, who ran second, one length behind Pleasantly Perfect in last year's Pacific Classic, has won three of nine starts at 1 1/4 miles with two seconds and a third.

Longshot Polish Times, trained by Nick Hines, has been withdrawn from the race. His defection leaves the field at 11: Lava Man, Surf Cat, Perfect Drift, Choctaw Nation, Congrats, Borrego, Super Frolic, Island Fashion, Ace Blue, Musique Toujours, and Oceanus.

Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) winner Lava Man is the main obstacle for Perfect Drift. An 8 1/2-length victor in the Gold Cup, the California bred won the Californian (gr. II) and showed good speed in both efforts. The 4-year-old Slew City Slew gelding was making his first start at 10 furlongs in the Gold Cup.

Sunday's race also attracted Choctaw Nation, two-time winner of Del Mar's San Diego Handicap (gr. II) and fourth in last year's Pacific Classic.

Swaps Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. II) winner Surf Cat gets a seven-pound weight break from the 124-pound assignment as a 3-year-old. He'll carry 117 pounds.

The 5-year-old mare Island Fashion, who won back-to-back grade I races and is coming off a pair of grade I runner-up finishes, gets a five-pound break and will carry 119. Island Fashion won the 1 1/4-mile Alabama (gr. I) at Saratoga at 3.

Post time for the Pacific Classic will be 4:45 p.m.

The original field, in post-position order with morning-line odds, is as follows.

1 -- Polish Times – Kent Desormeaux – 50
2 -- Choctaw Nation - Victor Espinoza – 6
3 -- Borrego – Garrett Gomez – 12
4 -- Lava Man – Patrick Valenzuela – 9/5
5 -- Surf Cat – Alex Solis – 3
6 -- Super Frolic – Jason Lumpkins – 30
7 -- Musique Toujours – Jorge Chavez - 20
8 -- Congrats – Tyler Baze – 10
9 -- Island Fashion – Corey Nakatani – 20
10 -- Oceanus (Brz) – Jose Valdivia, Jr. – 30
11 -- Ace Blue (Brz) – David Flores – 30
12 -- Perfect Drift – Mark Guidry - 4