06/16/2003 11:00PM

Amoss angle has Lovely Sage looking good

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Tom Amoss is one of those trainers who runs a large stable and consistently wins at or above 20 percent in virtually every statistical category. Those lofty percentages are a major reason for his many successes in a 15-year career - and it's also a good reason Amoss could have the winner Thursday in the $51,900 feature race at Churchill Downs.

Lovely Sage, one of 10 fillies and mares in the main body of the field, makes her turf debut for Amoss in the race, the ninth of 10 races, a second-level allowance at one mile. Lovely Sage was good enough to finish second in the La Troienne Stakes during Kentucky Derby week, but after a failed run in her next start, she is moving to grass for the first time. That move has been winning at a 21-percent clip for Amoss, who also has win percentages of 26 with all turf starters and 28 with allowance runners. Moreover, Lovely Sage, by Gentlemen, also seems to have the pedigree and stalking style to adapt to turf at first asking.

Calvin Borel has the mount on Lovely Sage for Amoss, who once again is enjoying a terrific spring meet at Churchill (13 wins from 51 starts). He and Dale Romans ended in a tie last year for the training title.

Two other allowances (races 6 and 8) and a starter-allowance on turf (race 7) also are part of a solid card Thursday, when first post is 1:15 p.m. Eastern.

Perfect Drift at his playground

Perfect Drift, the 4-year-old gelding who scored the biggest win of his career Saturday in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap, is getting a brief respite from the everyday grind on trainer Murray Johnson's farm just south of Louisville.

"It's just for a few days," said Johnson, whose stable is based at the Trackside training facility. "I have one of those walking machines that he can run on and not have anybody on his back. There's a big sand roll and a lot of space for him to graze all day. The grass is about a foot deep. Whenever I take him out there, he comes back very happy, plus it saves me pounding on him for a little bit."

Perfect Drift likely will have one race next month before running in the Aug. 16 Arlington Million.

The Lebanon jockey connection

The last time an aspiring jockey ventured outside of Lebanon, Ky., a small town located some 75 miles south of Louisville, he won an Eclipse Award as top apprentice.

That was Mark Johnston, the longtime Maryland jockey who now rides on the Southern California circuit. Johnston won the Eclipse in 1990.

Thursday at Churchill, a 16-year-old apprentice from Lebanon named Dennis King will have the first mount of his career. He will ride Jericho Jed in the first race for trainer Joe Cain. King, who will receive a 10-pound allowance until he wins five races, is represented by veteran agent Mike "Clarence" McGary.

Norman brings Beau's Town

Trainer Cole Norman has been dominant for the last several years in Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas, but his stable has rarely, if ever, ventured into Kentucky. That will change Saturday when Norman runs Beau's Town in the Grade 3, $100,000 Aristides Handicap at Churchill.

Beau's Town has won three stakes this year, including the Grade 3 Count Fleet at Oaklawn Park in April. He will be the 123-pound highweight in the 6 1/2-furlong Aristides, a race that officials are expecting will get about seven or eight horses.

Among the other probables are Twilight Road and Strength and Honor, the one-two finishers in the Aristides prep on May 23.