03/18/2002 1:00AM

D'Amico loses Perfect Drift


Jockey Tony D'Amico on Monday hit the hat trick he didn't want to hit. After being removed earlier this year from the top Ken McPeek-trained 3-year-olds, Harlan's Holiday and Repent, D'Amico has been replaced aboard Perfect Drift for Saturday's $500,000 Lane's End Spiral Stakes.

Murray Johnson, the trainer of Perfect Drift, said two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Eddie Delahoussaye would ride Perfect Drift in the Spiral.

Johnson on Monday said he believed Delahoussaye's experience would be invaluable in assessing whether Perfect Drift should continue on the Derby trail following the Spiral. "He's got the experience. He can shed some light on the subject," Johnson said.

Johnson said the trend for trainers of Derby runners to switch to big-name riders as the race nears weighed on his mind.

"You hate to look stupid. The consensus is to switch to a main rider," Johnson said. "And if there's ever a point where Eddie can't ride him, Tony will."

Johnson and Delahoussaye have been close friends since Johnson first trained in Southern California more than a decade ago.