Perfect Drift Heads Rich Washington Park

Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift, a grade I winner with earnings in excess of $3 million, looms as the overwhelming favorite over six rivals in the $300,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. II) Saturday at Arlington Park. The race for 3-year-olds and up at 1 3/16 miles will be televised live as part of ESPN's "Road to the World Thoroughbred Championships" during a one-hour broadcast beginning at 3 pm Central time.

Perfect Drift won the 2003 edition of the Washington Park Handicap by five lengths during a 4-year-old campaign that also included victories in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs, Hawthorne Gold Cup (gr. II), and Kentucky Cup Classic (gr. II) at Turfway Park. After running sixth in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic – Powered by Dodge (gr. I), the Murray Johnson charge was given the winter off. When he returned as a 5-year-old, he went winless in nine starts on the season, but he earned nearly $1 million with five runner-up finishes.

Now a 6-year-old, the gelded son of Dynaformer has raced three times this year, opening the season with a Keeneland allowance win on grass, which served as a prep for the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) at Churchill Downs. He endured a tough trip and finished ninth as the favorite. Last time out, he was third in the Stephen Foster despite a rough trip.

Mark Guidry, a two-time Arlington riding champion, picks up the mount aboard Perfect Drift, who will shoulder 120 pounds while spotting his rivals from four to seven pounds.

Gary A. Tanaka's Billy Allen provides an interesting storyline for this year's Washington Park. An Irish-bred son of Night Shift, Billy Allen won four of the five legs of the recent European All-Weather Championship Series.

The series is conducted at tracks in Germany, Italy, Sweden, France, and Great Britain, with Billy Allen winning the legs in the first four nations, but failing in England's Littlewoods Bet Direct Winter Derby at Lingfield March 19. Since suffering that defeat, the 4-year-old colt captured stakes in Italy and Sweden before failing in the Grand Prix de Compiegne June 29 in France. Trained by Fabrice Chappet, Billy Allen will carry 116 pounds, including Arlington Park's leading jockey, Shaun Bridgmohan.

Also in with 116 pounds is Pin Oak Stable Cryptograph. The son of Cryptoclearance has not won a race since capturing the $100,000 Round Table Stakes over this oval last July, but he has been competitive in two graded stakes this year. The Donnie Von Hemel-trained 4-year-old rallied from last to run second, beaten a nose by Supah Blitz in the Lone Star Handicap (gr. III) in May, and most recently finished fifth, beaten a length by Lord of the Game in the Cornhusker Breeders Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Prairie Meadows July 2. His regular rider, Don Pettinger, gets the call.

R Bar S Thoroughbred's Fantasticat is making just his second start of 2005 after finishing second in his seasonal debut in an optional claimer at Churchill Downs earlier this month. Last year, the Bobby Barnett-trained son of Storm Cat posted an upset victory in the Super Derby (gr. II) at Louisiana Downs. Eddie Martin Jr. comes in from Ellis Park to ride.

Washington Park H. (gr. II) Race 6
1 Perfect Drift 120 Mark Guidry
2 Mambo Train 115 E.T. Baird
3 Billy Allen 116 Shaun Bridgmohan
4 Home of Stars 114 James Graham
5 Fantasticat 115 Eddie Martin Jr.
6 Cryptograph 116 Don Pettinger
7 Freefourinternet 113 Brian Hernandez Jr.