A strong five-furlong work on Saturday by Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift has trainer Murray Johnson looking forward to the $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) June 12, his gelding's bid for a second consecutive victory in Churchill Downs' premier race for older horses.
The 5-year-old son of Dynaformer covered the distance in 1:00 over a "fast" surface at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center. The move under exercise rider Michael Bowlds was easily the fastest among seven drills at the distance.
"He did everything good," said Johnson. "We're very happy. He did it with his ears pricked and we couldn't have been happier."
With that final major training move under Perfect Drift's belt, Johnson will focus on keeping the defending champion happy in the few days that remain before Saturday's race. Perfect Drift is scheduled to take Sunday off and will return to the track on Monday for a jog.
The Stephen Foster was one of four graded stakes victories on the dirt for Perfect Drift in 2003. But he enters the Stephen Foster on a three-race losing streak that includes a sixth-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Santa Anita and two setbacks this year: an eighth-place finish in the Maker's Mark Mile (gr. II) on the Keeneland turf and a runner-up finish to Congrats in the first running of the Alysheba at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day.
Last year Perfect Drift's pre-Foster schedule saw him win an allowance race on the turf at Keeneland in his season debut and then run fourth in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) on Kentucky Derby Day at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Pat Day, who has a record three victories in the Stephen Foster, is scheduled to ride Johnson's star again next week. Perfect Drift will enter the Foster with a record of 9-4-1 in 20 races and earnings of $2,244,088.