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Sep 29, 2006

Perfect Drift goes for second Kentucky Cup Classic


Florence, KY (Sports Network) - Perfect Drift, the 2003 winner of the Kentucky Cup Classic, is the consensus favorite for Saturday's 13th edition of the Turfway Park race. The $350,000 race will be contested on Turfway Park's all-weather Polytrack surface.

Perfect Drift will face an evenly matched field of six in the 1 1/8 mile event. Woodward Handicap winner Premier Tap and Pacific Classic runner-up Good Reward are the gelding's two main rivals along with Ball Four, It's No Joke, Greeley's Galaxy and Alumni Hall.

Trained by Murray Johnson, Perfect Drift will start from the outside post with Julien Leparoux in the saddle for the first time. With winnings of $4.6 million the seven-year-old is easily the wealthiest entrant. He has a lifetime record of 11 wins in 40 starts for owner Stonecrest Farm.

"He's very familiar with Turfway," Johnson said about Leparoux. "He's a rising star who rides with great confidence. It's not a knock on anyone else. We just wanted to make a change."

"The timing of this race changed (to five weeks before the Breeders' Cup instead of seven) and we felt it fit good," said Johnson. "He's done well at Turfway even though he's never run on Polytrack. He handles every kind of track, so why wouldn't we think he would like it?"

While winless this year, Perfect Drift has three second place finishes in his five starts. He is coming off a fourth place finish in the Pacific Classic at Del Mar in August.

Breaking from the inside post will Premium Tap and jockey Kent Desormeaux. The four-year-old colt has five wins in 14 career starts for $471,280. Along with his Woodward victory earlier this month, Premium Tap took the Albert the Great Stakes at Belmont in July.

"It's good timing and he came out of his last race in good order," stated trainer John Kimmel. "We weren't going to tackle Bernardini and Invasor in the Jockey Club Gold Cup. I think the Classic is a good spot. It will be interesting to see how he handles the Polytrack."

"We were considering the Meadowlands Breeders' Cup on October 13," continued Kimmel, "but if it came up sloppy it would put us in a hole for the Clark Handicap (Nov. 24 at Churchill Downs), since I don't want to run him on an off track. With Polytrack, an off track is not a consideration. Polytrack gets even better when it's wet."

Starting next to Premium Tap will be Ogden Phipps' Good Reward. Trained by Shug McGaughey, the five-year-old will be ridden by veteran jockey Mike Smith.

Just two weeks ago Good Reward was fifth in the Brooklyn Handicap to Wanderin Boy. The short layoff between races does not concern McGaughey.

"It's a non-issue in my opinion," said McGaughey. "He came back from the Brooklyn well, and he worked good."

Like his two main rivals, Good Reward will be making his ever start on Polytrack. "I have no idea whether he'll handle the surface," McGaughey said. "They tell me that grass horses handle the Polytrack pretty well. We'll just go down there and give it a try."

Good Reward has earned more than $1 million lifetime in 24 starts with five wins. His last win came in last year's Manhattan Handicap on the turf.

The Kentucky Cup Classic has a scheduled post-time of 4:42 p.m. (et) and will be televised on ESPN.

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