07/26/2006 12:00AM

Fellow Kentucky invaders stand in Perfect Drift's way


ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Let us all hail Perfect Drift, who puts a sudden halt to talk of the fragility of the modern Thoroughbred. Saturday at Arlington Park, he seeks not his first, not his second, but his third victory in the Grade 2, $300,000 Washington Park Handicap, a race he won last year and in 2003.

This year, however, Perfect Drift is not the only prominent horse who comes to suburban Chicago from Kentucky. In fact, five of the seven entered Wednesday in the Washington Park call Louisville home, and Perfect Drift could feel the heat Saturday from fellow Kentuckians Second of June and Suave. Nolan's Cat and O'Connell's, two less accomplished Kentucky horses, and Three Hour Nap, a top local dirt horse, complete the field.

Suave beat Second of June by a nose in a recent Churchill Downs allowance race, a welcome return to form for Suave, who had an excellent 2005 but struggled badly over the winter at Gulfstream Park. Suave kicked off his 2005 campaign with an Arlington allowance victory, then won the Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap by almost three lengths. He finished second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, a close fifth in the Breeders' Cup Classic, and second by a head in the Clark Handicap to complete a year that earned owners Mace and Samantha Siegel more than $624,000.

Suave wintered in Florida with trainer Paul McGee, and actually was the 2-1 favorite in the Grade 1 Donn Handicap. But he faded badly on a sloppy track and finished sixth in the Donn, then was sixth with no apparent excuse when favored in the Gulfstream Park Handicap.

"It was certainly disappointing, his two races down there," McGee said. "He just wasn't on top of his game. He's a very sound horse, and always has been. I never put my finger on anything."

Suave got a spring freshening while remaining in McGee's barn, and looked like his old self beating Second of June in a one-turn mile.

"I don't want to get ahead of myself," McGee said. "We're just looking forward to Saturday at this point."

Weld has backup for Secretariat

The Dermot Weld-trained Golden Arrow failed to pass muster last Saturday, finishing fifth in the American Derby, and returned to Ireland on Monday. But Weld apparently has another horse for the Secretariat Stakes, and is expected to send Royal Intrigue for the race. Royal Intrigue won his debut and lost his last two races at 2, but has won two straight in Ireland, most recently beating 12 rivals on July 10.

But Royal Intrigue may not be the best of four overseas horses considered possible for the Secretariat. Red Rocks also is scheduled to ship for the race, and in his most recent start he finished second in the Group 1 Grand Prix de Paris. Red Rocks began his 3-year-old season with a maiden win, then was a close second in a Group 2 at the Ascot meeting. Primary and Ivan Denisovich, two more 3-year-olds, also are expected to join the Secretariat field.

Ivan Denisovich is trained by Aidan O'Brien, who is expected to send a horse for all three Grade 1 races here Aug. 12. Ace reportedly is O'Brien's candidate for the Million, with Queen Cleopatra headed to the Beverly D.

Other Europeans pointing to the Million are Soldier Hollow, Phoenix Reach, and Touch of Land, who has run in the race twice.

* Subtractions and additions in the local jockey colony: Besides the big-name Kentucky riders - Robby Albarado, Rene Douglas, and Mark Guidry - Jose Betancourt has returned to the Chicago circuit. The apprentice Lori Keith has left for Philadelphia Park.