Stephen Foster Handicap Field Shaping Up

Edited from a release

Trainer Murray Johnson did not have to fret long about who would ride Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift in Saturday's Stephen Foster. Regular jockey Kent Desormeaux cannot make it to Churchill Downs because of riding commitments in Japan, but Johnson has landed a more than able replacement in Pat Day, the all-time leading rider at stakes winner at the historic track.

"We're delighted to have him," said Johnson. "We think he fits him (Perfect Drift) like a glove."

Although Johnson has been training in Kentucky since the early 1990's, he said the Stephen Foster would mark the first time that Day has ever ridden one of his horses. "I named him on a horse in California and he got there in time, but said he didn't want to ride it," Johnson recalled. "So I turned around and looked at Gary Stevens and said, 'Gary, will you ride this horse for me,' and he said 'fine.' That's as close as I got to ever riding Pat Day."

Perfect Drift finished third to War Emblem in last year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I) under the now-retired Eddie Delahoussaye. (The second-place horse in the race, Proud Citizen, is also scheduled to contest the Stephen Foster.) Desormeaux has ridden the Dynaformer gelding in his two other races this year. He won an allowance race on the Keeneland turf in his 2003 debut and then finished a solid fourth to Honor In War in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. I) at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day. Johnson's gelding won the Lane's End Spiral (gr. II) and the Indiana Derby (gr. III) at three.

Trainer Neil Howard said that likely Stephen Foster (gr. I) favorite Mineshaft came out of his final pre-race workout well. The son of A.P. Indy breezed five furlongs on Tuesday in :59.60 and walked under Howard's shedrow on Wednesday.

Trainer Walter Bindner said Lakeside Farms' Colonial Colony came out of a Tuesday work in good shape and that he would likely enter the 5-year-old son of Pleasant Colony in the Stephen Foster. Trainer Peter Vestal said that Charles Cella's Crafty Shaw is still "possible" for the Foster, and trainer Tom Proctor said that was also the status for Glen Hill Farm's Consistency. Aldebaran, Unbridled Vision, and Woodmoon, are also expected in the race.