This may be the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), but trainer Murray Johnson sees it as just the start for Perfect Drift, who he sends out Saturday to try and deny War Emblem a Triple Crown.
"Being that he's a gelding, I can map out a different plan than some," Johnson said Friday morning from barn six on the Belmont backside while a persistent light rain fell. "We know he can run on the dirt, and he's bred for the turf, so I would certainly like to try him on grass."
The 3-year-old Kentucky bred is by Dynaformer and out of the Naskra mare Nice Gal. He races for his breeder, William Reed.
Johnson is a native of Australia and said he would love to take Perfect Drift there to run in the Cox Plate (Aust-I), one of the premier races in that country. "Oh, I would love that," he said. "Really, if he stays sound, he's a candidate for all the big races -- Dubai (World Cup, UAE-I), Japan (Japan Cup, Jpn-I).
"We're dreaming now, so why not keep dreaming," Johnson said.
Perfect Drift finished third in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and is one of two Belmont starters -- Essence of Dubai being the other -- who has not started since the first Saturday in May.
"We all knew speed was the thing in the Derby," Johnson said. "I can't change my horse's style to try and win the Belmont. "That's not his way of running, but he's improving and will win his share of races."
So far, Perfect Drift has won three of seven, and never been worse than third. But how does he attack War Emblem?
"We know War Emblem is a fast horse," Johnson said. "He can go fast and he can go far...with no pressure. Can he under pressure?
"He's had horses try him in the Derby, others try him in the Preakness, and now others will try him in the Belmont. A lot of horses, and a lot of horsemen. If he does it, he's a great horse."
But regardless of what happens Saturday at Belmont, Johnson is looking forward to Perfect Drift's future. "He's getting bigger, getting stronger...continuing to improve. Like I said, he'll win his share of races."