07/08/2003 11:00PM

Almost no fanfare for Perfect Drift


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Perfect Drift won the Midwest's premier handicap race, and the horse he beat is getting all the credit.

Perfect Drift pushed past Mineshaft in the stretch and took the Grade 1 Stephen Foster by a head June 14 at Churchill Downs, but the race is becoming known as Mineshaft's loss, not the one Perfect Drift won.

Mineshaft came back last Saturday to toy with a star-laced field in the Suburban at Belmont. Earlier that day, laboring in obscurity at the Trackside training center in Louisville, Ky., Perfect Drift worked a bullet five furlongs preparing for the July 19 Washington Park Handicap here at Arlington.

"Everybody's forgotten about us now," said trainer Murray Johnson. "I'm listening to the shows and reading the papers, and it's all Medaglia d'Oro and Mineshaft. Everybody that talks about the race thinks [Robby] Albarado gave Mineshaft a bad ride. If you talk to [Perfect Drift's rider] Pat Day and other people, they'll tell you it wasn't the eight pounds and Robby's ride that got him beat. It was just a better horse on that day. But it's okay - we prefer to be under the radar anyway."

Perfect Drift is scheduled for one more major breeze before shipping to Arlington on July 17 for the $400,000 Washington Park. Johnson said Perfect Drift would go back to Kentucky after the race, but return here for the Arlington Million. Perfect Drift has raced twice on grass this year, winning a Keeneland allowance race before finishing a close fourth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve.

"He's fitter and stronger now than he was in that race," Johnson added. "Being able to switch surfaces means maybe we don't have to travel as much."

Johnson said Perfect Drift's training since the Foster has been excellent. "We have him in a pretty good routine right now," he said. "He seems to know what we're asking of him."

Razo now has the hot hand

They come in waves, the hot riders at Arlington Park. First Curt Bourque, then Marlon St. Julien, and now Eddie Razo have gone through hot streaks at the meet. Razo's has lasted about two weeks and has moved him up to third in the standings, just four wins behind second-place Bourque through last week's racing.

Razo won with 13 of his first 100 mounts through June 11, but has gone 20 for 79 since then.

"My agent told me when the last [condition] book came out that he had a lot of live horses," Razo said Wednesday morning. "It seemed like every horse I rode was in the right spot. Once you start winning, your confidence starts improving. I've had good weeks before, but nothing like this."

Razo, 37, has been a regular in Chicago since the 1980's. He's extremely reserved, but the few who know him well say his outward demeanor belies his personality: quick-witted and acutely observant. Razo stays busy during morning training and has loyal clients here because of his work ethic.

"Most of these horses I'm riding, I've worked for the people, so I know how how well they're doing," he said.

Razo has been winning all kinds of races, including four recent stakes with Wiggins, Keeping the Gold, Apt to Be, and El Ruller.

There is one top rider, however, who has not gone through an especially hot spell: Rene Douglas, who wins so often at Arlington that one hardly notices a productive week from him. Through Sunday, Douglas had opened a solid 13-win lead in the rider standings.

Razo may have to make a choice between 3-year-olds in the July 26 Round Table Stakes, since two horses he rides, El Ruller and Wiggins, are both probable starters in the race. Wiggins, an Illinois-bred colt, is coming off an impressive win over statebreds in the Springfield Stakes last month.

Razo was up for Wiggins's six-furlong work in 1:16 on Wednesday, which trainer Tony Granitz termed "very good."

Said Granitz, "He's starting to rate really nice right now. We're going to nominate to the Round Table and see what the race looks like."

Another colt pointing for the Round Table is Absent Friend, who was third in the Iowa Derby last Saturday night at Prairie Meadows.

"He still has a lot of learning to do," said assistant trainer Davey Duggan. "He came back home with no problems from the race."

For those who believe in signs

If you're into omens, try this one. Seconds after Arlington's Friday overnight was released, Sammy Sosa went deep for the Chicago Cubs some 20 miles away at Wrigley Field. Guess who's in race 9 Friday? A colt named Sammieso Sah.

The ninth comes a race after Friday's feature, a second-level sprint allowance for fillies, a race that scraped onto the 10-race program with six entries. Leasholder's Dream is the one to beat in the allowance. She failed in a stakes try two starts ago and was done in by a poor break in her last race. A horse with speed, Leasholder's Dream is perfectly drawn to use it in post 6.

Sammieso Sah picks up the services of Rene Douglas in his race, a $50,000 3-year-old claimer at about one mile on turf. The bad-trip horse of this race is Lord Lionel, who found traffic at nearly every step of the stretch run of his last start.

In the seventh, a second-level statebred allowance, look to Lord Jones, who ran creditably in the Springfield Stakes the last time he raced and crushed an Illinois-bred entry-level allowance group the start before.