'Roses Turns Back Perfect Drift in Cornhusker

(from Prairie Meadows report)
Roses that bloomed a little later than in May left trainer Dale Romans handing out bouquets of praise following Saturday's $300,000 Prairie Meadows Cornhusker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. III) in Iowa.

Roses in May left his trainer wondering how good he can be by holding off Perfect Drift's big charge by 1 1/2 lengths. Perfect Drift had every opportunity along the inside, drawing even coming out of the final turn, but he could not get past the winner.

"I don't know where we'll go from here. We'll probably try the next level,'' Romans said. "The way he trains and the way his career is shaping up I don't think there's a limit on how high he can go.''

Roses in May highlighted of the Iowa Festival of Racing by going gate to wire in 1:46 3/5 for the 1 1/8-mile Cornhusker.

The win was worth $180,000 to Kenneth and Sarah Ramsey, Roses in May's owners. It raised the career earnings of the Kentucky-bred son of Devil His Due out of the dam Tell a Secret to $323,687.

"I knew I had a lot of horse underneath me,'' said winning jockey Mark Guidry. "I was just hoping he'd switch leads a little sooner than he did. But once he finally switched leads I knew Perfect Drift wasn't going to come to us.''

That was all that was needed to turn back Perfect Drift, the heavy favorite that added to the frustration of jockey Pat Day.

One race before riding Perfect Drift, Day finished third aboard trainer Bob Baffert's Cat Fighter in the $125,000 Iowa Distaff Breeders' Cup. Before flying to Iowa, he was disqualified from second and placed third in the $250,000 Firecracker Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs in Kentucky.

"We ended up down on the inside, which probably wasn't the best,'' said Murray Johnson, Perfect Drift's trainer. "The winner was pretty much left out on the front end without any pressure.''

Day settled for second despite having what he called an "ideal trip'' on Perfect Drift.

"The winner is a nice horse. There's no taking anything away from him,'' Day said. "Certainly no shame to get beat by this horse. I think you're going to hear more of him. My horse ran big. I was very pleased with him.''

Perfect Drift tried to squeeze through on the inside of Roses in May in the final turn. At the top of the stretch, the 4-year-old winner clung to a half-length lead.

"Pat has ridden this horse a few times. He knows he hangs out a little bit,'' Guidry said. "He was taking advantage of it like all good riders do. I just had the horse to prevail -- that's all.''

Perfect Drift was making his first start since having throat surgery to correct a breathing problem that surfaced in last month's Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

"He's a nice horse,'' Johnson said of Roses in May. "When we went to him in the lane, he had enough to hold us off. We'll win many more -- we just got to do it soon.''

Roses in May was pressed by Crafty Shaw at the start. In third sat Perfect Drift, who stayed near the inside fence throughout the race.

Perfect Drift took over second midway through the backstretch. The career earner of $2,385,163 then set up an exciting finish when ranging up along the inside as Crafty Shaw fell back.

"I didn't think our horse would quit,'' Romans said.

Romans hopes the victory is the first of many for a talented competitor that just keeps getting better.

"He keeps steamrolling,'' Romans said. "He gets better and better the further he goes."

Roses in May paid $7.40, $3.40 and $2.20 as the second choice in the field of six. Perfect Drift returned $2.40 and $2.20. Crafty Shaw, ridden by Craig Perret, finished 5 1/2 lengths behind the winner and was $2.20 to show.

Sonic West, Native Hawk and Ole Faunty trailed.

(Chart, Equibase)