Perfect Drift, left, runs down favored Mineshaft in the final furlong to capture the Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Perfect Drift, left, runs down favored Mineshaft in the final furlong to capture the Stephen Foster Handicap Saturday at Churchill Downs.

Associated Press

Get My Drift

This story appeared in the June 21, 2003 issue of The Blood-Horse
Turns out Perfect Drift was carrying just a tad more than his assigned 115 pounds at Churchill Downs June 14 in the $856,500 Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I). Tucked under the saddlecloth beneath Pat Day was a six-inch braid of hair made from John Henry's tail.

The braid was a gift to trainer Murray Johnson from Tammy Siters, who oversees John Henry at the Kentucky Horse Park. It may have been Father's Day Eve, but this gift was sent with love from one great gelding to another emerging one.

Make no mistake, this Churchill meeting has been all about geldings. Funny Cide's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory showed the way for Perfect Drift, a 4-year-old by Dynaformer out of the Naskra mare Nice Gal. The affable Australian conditioner Johnson jokingly lamented his lack of timing.

"Last year it was a little disappointing because we were the gelding in the Derby and we were one year short. Then in the Breeders' Cup there was a trainer named Johnson, except it was P.G. Johnson (Volponi). So we thought maybe this would be our year."

The Foster was all about timing. Coming into the race off a stunning romp in last month's Pimlico Special (gr. I), Mineshaft had done nothing wrong since crossing the pond from Great Britain to continue his racing career stateside. His only defeat in seven starts since last November came to runaway winner Balto Star in February's Whirlaway Handicap (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. The son of A.P. Indy had stamped himself as one of the handicap division's leaders alongside Medaglia d'Oro and Congaree, and Foster fans agreed, sending him off at 3-5.

But Mineshaft drew outside the salty field of 10, and had to run to the first turn to hold position in mid-pack. Crafty Shaw, a hard-luck second to Lido Palace over the strip in November's Clark Handicap (gr. II), showed the way early, tracked by up-and-comer Consistency.

Mineshaft and Perfect Drift were alongside one another three lengths off the pace. Leaving the half-mile pole, Robby Albarado let Mineshaft run just as he had at Pimlico, and he brushed the field with a staggering move that opened up daylight coming off the turn for home.

However, he set himself up as a target for Day and Perfect Drift.

"At that point I eased out from between horses and we went to him pretty nicely," said Day. "I hadn't asked him at that point and Robby had gone to work on Mineshaft. Leaving the three-sixteenths pole I felt I had him where I wanted him. I didn't want to make the lead too fast so I waited until the sixteenth pole and encouraged him. He was a pleasure to ride."

Albarado maintained that Mineshaft was doing it all on his own. "I didn't ask him for run, but I didn't want to discourage him any. He keeps that pace all the way around; it's not like it's a move. He never runs a bad one. He just got outrun today."

"Pat sat him perfect and pushed the buttons," Johnson said. "When Mineshaft went by I didn't get nervous, not with Pat aboard. My horse doesn't want to go to the front anyway. I was delighted when the other one moved first. 'Go, try and run away, we'll catch you.' "

Mineshaft lost nothing in defeat. Giving eight pounds to the winner, Mineshaft was trying to come back on again after being passed down the lane. Perfect Drift hit the line a short head in front in 1:47.55. It was nearly 10 lengths back to Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) winner Aldebaran in third.

Perfect Drift races as a homebred for Dr. William Reed's Stonecrest Farm. Reed is a heart surgeon from Kansas City, where his farm sits on 110 acres on a hillside within the city limits. "I don't usually get too worked up, but this is an enormous thrill," he said in the winner's circle. "We had a good shot in the Derby last year, but the horse is better now and we're overjoyed. We only raise four or five horses a year, and breed below the top level. We've gone to Dynaformer before, and got a horse named Slough Creek who won at Keeneland going 1 1/2 miles on the grass. We have a full brother to Perfect Drift, and the mare was just pronounced in foal to him again. We like his reputation for getting good, hard-knocking horses."

After a game third in the Derby last year, Perfect Drift was buried in the Belmont (gr. I) and the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I). His pair of return races this year were both on the turf, an allowance score at Keeneland and a fourth-place finish in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (gr. IT) on Derby Day. The Foster victory makes him racing's newest millionaire, and inserts him smack into the meat of the handicap division. But wait. "We're looking at the Arlington Million (gr. IT) as our next objective," Johnson said. "Grass or dirt, it doesn't matter. I love Arlington and he handles either surface."

Wherever and over what surface we next see Perfect Drift, the talisman from John Henry will be right there with him.

(Chart, Equibase)