Perfect Drift Headed for Washington Park 'Cap

(from Churchill Downs notes)
Trainer Murray Johnson said Perfect Drift's first race since his June 14 victory over Mineshaft in the Stephen Foster (gr. I) would come at Arlington Park on July 19 in the $400,000 Washington Park Handicap (gr. II).

Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift truned in a strong five-furlong breeze Saturday at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center.

The 4-year-old Dynaformer gelding covered the distance in 1:00.60 over the seven-furlong surface, which was rated "fast." Jockey Joe Deegan, Perfect Drift's regular work rider, was aboard for the move that was the fastest of seven on the day at that distance.

"He was full of himself," said Johnson. "He went to the pole a little stronger, a little more eager than normal, but Joe did a great job of slowing him down. He's right on."

Johnson said Perfect Drift's ultimate summer goal is the Arlington Million (gr. IT) on turf on Aug. 16. He had also considered a run in the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on July 13, but weather played a role in Johnson's decision to keep his star gelding closer to his home base in Louisville.

"Shipping and the temperature getting hot now were the biggest factors," said Johnson. "Two weeks ago it wasn't that hot, so you weren't really thinking about the weather too much. But now the humidity and everything is here and we just think that the Million is our main focus and we'll just use this other race to get to there."

Johnson already has a string of horses stabled at Arlington Park, but he said Perfect Drift would not be joining those horses early at the Illinois track.

"We'll ship up there Thursday (July 17), probably let him walk through the paddock on Friday and let him run on Saturday," he said. Saturday's move was Perfect Drift's last serious training move before the Washington Park Handicap.

"We've got two weeks, so we'll come back with maybe just a slightly easier work next week," Johnson said. "We'll be ready."

The Stephen Foster victory by Perfect Drift lifted his career record to 6-3-1 in 13 races and boosted his lifetime earnings to $1,309,868. He won the Lane's End (gr. II) and Indiana Derby (GIII) and was third to War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).