Perfect Drift Returns to Track

From Churchill Downs:

The Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) at Arlington Park was a tougher journey than anticipated for Stonecrest Farm's homebred Perfect Drift, but the 3-year-old gelding came out of the race little worse for the wear

Trainer Murray Johnson gave the gelded son of Dynaformer a few days off after he finished last behind the victorious Volponi and 10 other rivals, but returned to the track at Churchill Downs' Trackside Louisville training center for a gallop on Thursday morning. Perfect Drift lost his left hind shoe in the early going of the 1 1/4-mile Classic, a problem Johnson believes made his stable star too eager to run in the early going and contributed greatly to his disappointing finish.

Johnson has watched the replay of the race and believes Perfect Drift was stripped of the shoe in a collision with Classic rival Dollar Bill when the horses were squeezed at the start of the race.

"They got squeezed and Dollar Bill stripped some hair off him and pulled the shoe off," Johnson said. "He (Dollar Bill) sort of stopped and we got on the bit too much and got a little closer than what we wanted. It stung him or whatever and sent him forward. It left him a little bit open with no cover and Robby (jockey Robby Albarado) had to reach up and take him--and when you take ahold of him, he jumps into the bit."

All things considered, Johnson said Perfect Drift will likely benefit from the experience.

"It was bad luck, but you can't expect him to run around there with three shoes and compete with the best horses in the country," he said. "The horse is in great health. Robby didn't abuse him just to beat a few tired horses and everything and today he was full of himself."

Johnson is assessing future racing options for Perfect Drift, whose 3-year-old season has been highlighted by a third-place finish behind War Emblem in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and victories in the Spiral (gr. II) at Turfway Park and the Indiana Derby (gr. III) at Hoosier Park. He said another date against older horses in the $400,000-added Clark Handicap (gr. II) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29 could be Perfect Drift's next outing.

Johnson likes to space Perfect Drift's races and he likes the five-week gap between the Classic and the 1 1/8-mile Clark, a race in which he could meet Fayette Stakes (gr. III) winner Tenpins and two-time Woodward (gr. I) winner Lido Palace.

"We'll take a good look at that," Johnson said. "We'll talk about it with the owners and see what they want to do. There's always a chance we'd want to try him on the turf somewhere."

Perfect Drift will get some rest over the winter as Johnson plans to keep his stable at Trackside Louisville rather than travel to a warmer climate. Johnson said he will likely take a close look at Santa Anita's Strub series for 4-year-olds as he maps out a 2003 campaign for Perfect Drift that he hopes will end with another bid for the Classic.

"I haven't really discussed that with the owners," he said. "But with the Breeders' Cup being out there next year and everything, it's probably worth getting out there and getting a feel for it."