09/15/2003 12:00AM

Hawthorne next for Perfect Drift

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FLORENCE, Ky. - Even after his stable star turned in yet another scintillating performance on dirt, Murray Johnson was still reluctant to forget about turf racing options for Perfect Drift.

Johnson said after Perfect Drift defeated heavily favored Congaree by a measured length in the Kentucky Cup Classic that racing on turf has proven highly useful - if only for the turf-to-dirt angle - and that he would not hesitate to run Perfect Drift on grass again.

"It's been really amazing how he runs coming off those turf races," Johnson said.

Indeed, in each of his two major triumphs this year - a head win over Mineshaft in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap in June, and the Saturday win at Turfway Park - Perfect Drift was coming off mediocre turf performances, in the Woodford Reserve and Arlington Million, respectively. One of the reasons that Johnson, an Australia native, does not want to completely dismiss turf racing is that he continues to get offers to take Perfect Drift to tracks "all over the world," and most racing outside the United States is conducted on grass.

The first overseas journey for Perfect Drift probably will come over the winter, but there is plenty of work to do here first. Next up is the $750,000 Hawthorne Gold Cup, a Sept. 28 race that Johnson has called the second half of "our own little Breeders' Cup." After that, Perfect Drift will not run in the Breeders' Cup Classic, even though he clearly matches up well with the best horses in the handicap division.

Johnson is not sure what will follow the Hawthorne race, although he likely will make the Nov. 29 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs the primary goal. "We could run in the Japan Cup [on dirt] on the same day as the Clark, although we want to run in Dubai in March and I don't know if I want him to do all that traveling before that," Johnson said Monday. "So it might be the Clark, although I don't know what we'll do before that. We might rest him up, or maybe even a grass race somewhere. Why not? It seems to be working pretty well so far, doesn't it?"

Cajun Beat wins, could try BC Sprint

Before Cajun Beat scored his mild upset over 10 other 3-year-olds in the Kentucky Cup Sprint, the Breeders' Cup Sprint wasn't even on the radar screen for trainer Steve Margolis.

But, in the wake of what transpired Saturday, "We're going to think about if for a while," Margolis said. "The horse came out of the race in good shape. Originally we were thinking about the Perryville," a seven-furlong race for

3-year-olds at Keeneland Oct. 9, "but we're going to let the horse tell us what to do. It'll be that or the Breeders' Cup. He definitely won't run in both."

Margolis took over the training of Cajun Beat, a gelding by Grand Slam, following a ninth-place finish in the May 10 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill. Cajun Beat, owned by Satish Sanan and John and Joe Iracane, previously was trained by Calder-based Cam Gambolati. "The Iracanes are from Owensboro [Ky.] and wanted the horse to stay in Kentucky," Margolis said.

Margolis, a former longtime assistant to trainer Stanley Hough, went out on his own several years ago and has enjoyed steady success on the Kentucky circuit, most notably with Request for Parole, the fifth-place finisher in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. Less than an hour after the KC Sprint, Margolis and his girlfriend, Sue Smith, were on their way to the Cincinnati airport, which is located only a few miles from the Turfway Park stable gate.

"We're in Vermont," Margolis, a New York native, said Monday by phone. "My parents have a house about a half-mile from Lake Champlain. It was really great to win like that before we got away for a couple days."

Mr. Jester likely to pass BC Juvenile

Mr. Jester, upset winner of the KC Juvenile following the disqualification of odds-on Pomeroy, probably won't run in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, although it hasn't been completely ruled out, trainer Steve Wren said Monday.

"This race sure opened up the door for us," said Wren, who has been attending the Keeneland September yearling sales and is currently based at Louisiana Downs. "When we came there, the intention was to run back in the Iroquois and Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill. Now that he ran so big, we might do something else. The Keeneland race," the Oct. 4 Breeders' Futurity, "is a definite possibility, but I really don't know about the Breeders' Cup. We'll see what happens after the dust settles a little more."

Mr. Jester, by Silver Deputy, is owned by Kaaren Biggs of Springdale, Ark. The victory was the first for the Biggs stable since Kaaren's husband, Hayes Biggs, died of cancer Aug. 12. "You can only imagine what this was like for Kaaren," Wren said. "I told her, 'We've got a lot of firsts in front of us.' The first time in the winner's circle was a pretty emotional experience."

Meanwhile, trainer Patrick Biancone said he is leaning toward running Pomeroy in the Breeders' Cup. "It's unfortunate he was disqualified, but he ran very well," Biancone said.

Golden Marlin likely to head to Keeneland

Trainer Greg Foley got a welcome measure of consolation Sunday, the day after Champali finished third as the favorite behind Cajun Beat in the KC Sprint. Foley sent out the top filly in his stable, Golden Marlin, for a 9 1/2-length victory in the Sunday feature at Turfway, a $30,600 allowance race at six furlongs.

Golden Marlin, winner of the Grade 3 Dogwood Stakes at Churchill in May, was making her first start in more than 10 weeks. Although she is by Marlin, meaning her pedigree is slanted toward grass, Golden Marlin has fared better on dirt, and her immediate future probably is on that surface, said the filly's co-owner, Doug Glass. "We're leaning toward the Raven Run," a seven-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies at Keeneland Oct. 10, Glass said.

Meanwhile, Champali, who was beaten 4 1/4 lengths after a wide trip, may run back in the Perryville, said Rob Lloyd, who manages the colt's ownership syndicate, Lloyd Madison Farms Inc. "We had been thinking about the Indiana Derby, but maybe the Perryville would be better," Lloyd said.

The Indiana Derby will be run on Oct. 4.

Kentucky Cup handle up

All-sources handle on the 14-race Kentucky Cup card, which included four simulcasts from sister track Kentucky Downs, was $7,266,116. That number was up nearly 22 percent from last year but falls well short of the all-time record for the event of nearly $9.6 million, which was set in 1997.

Although the ontrack attendance was estimated at 11,223, ontrack patrons wagered only $891,766 (including simulcasts), for an inordinately low per-capita of $79. The attendance figure, which would be a record in the 10-year history of the Kentucky Cup, had to be estimated because the track did not charge admission Saturday.

Track president Bob Elliston said officials arrived at the attendance by using "productivity numbers, program sales, and other factors, since per-capita can be kind of screwy on big days like this." Nonetheless, Turfway records show that ontrack per-capita for previous Kentucky Cups has always been at least $100.

* Held one week after the five Kentucky Cup dirt races at Turfway, the four-race Kentucky Cup turf series is set for Saturday at Kentucky Downs, the grass-only course in Franklin, Ky.

Continental Red and the defending champion, Rochester, are the leading candidates for the richest race in the series, the $200,000 Kentucky Cup Turf at 1 1/2 miles. The other races, each worth $100,000, are the KC Mile, KC Ladies, and KC Turf Dash.

* Two stakes were among the four races that opened the seven-day Kentucky Downs meet Saturday. Naraingang, ridden by Joe Deegan, held on to win the $40,000 Yaqthan, and Powderjay, ridden by Bill Troilo, drew clear in midstretch to win the $40,000 Pleasant Temper.