Trainer Murray Johnson celebrates Perfect Drift's victory in the Stephen Foster.

Trainer Murray Johnson celebrates Perfect Drift's victory in the Stephen Foster.

AP/Garry Jones

Perfect Drift Deserves World Stage, Johnson Says

(from Churchill track notes)
Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift, who edged heavily favored Mineshaft in the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I), will get a little time to relax after the biggest win of his career.

The win under Pat Day was the first grade I victory in the training career of Murray Johnson and the first for a horse based at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center. Johnson was still hoarse from cheering for Perfect Drift in his neck victory over Mineshaft when he discussed Perfect Drift's win on Sunday morning.

"I had a great feeling about him and I don't think he was ever in doubt. The horse just gives you what you need and you can just tell that he knows what's going on around him. Really you've just got to stay out of his way and let him do his thing. He's really learning how to put it all together."

Now that Perfect Drift, who was third in last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and won the Lane's End Spiral (gr. II) at Turfway Park and the Indiana Derby (gr. III) at Hoosier Park, has won a grade I race on the dirt, Johnson would like to do the same on turf. The Arlington Million (gr. IT) on Aug. 16 is his next major objective, but there's time to run once before that. Johnson said options include the $750,000 Hollywood Gold Cup (gr. I) on July 13, the $400,000 Washington Park (gr. II) Handicap on July 19, or the $250,000 Arlington Handicap (gr. III) on July 26.

But before that, Perfect Drift will get a well-earned rest with some other horses on Johnson's farm in Bullitt County, Ky., just south of Louisville. Johnson said the Dynaformer gelding would go to the farm on Wednesday and spend a few days before he returns to training at Trackside Louisville. During those days on Johnson's farm Perfect Drift will be allowed to be a regular horse.

"It's a nice barn where they can sort of see each other and I've got one of those Euro-exercisers (walking machines) and he can run on that and get exercise without having anyone on his back," said Johnson. "There's a big sand roll in which he can roll and the guys out there graze him forever. The grass is about a foot deep. He just has the best of everything out there and when he comes back he's just very happy and it saves pounding on him for a little bit."

The Arlington Million is the largest target on Johnson's horizon, at least for now. The Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) remains a longer term option, but Johnson is hoping that Perfect Drift will eventually have the opportunity to prove himself on the world stage.

"There's other races around the world where they pay you to go rather than having to pay to run," he said. "That's a big factor. He's a gelding and it's not like we're trying to appeal to the breeding public. We'll just go where the horse wants to go and where he takes us. I wouldn't mind traveling the world with him."

Johnson said that if Perfect Drift continues to improve and develop, literally everything is on the table.

"There's so many races out there around the world and I think he belongs. I think he showed that yesterday," Johnson said. "It opens up the whole world really."