09/24/2006 11:00PM

Leparoux to ride Perfect Drift in Classic


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Perfect Drift and Premium Tap are among the most accomplished runners expected Saturday for the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky.

Julien Leparoux, the national leader in wins this year, has been named by trainer Murray Johnson for his first ride aboard Perfect Drift in the Grade 2 Classic, the showcase event in the 13th running of the $825,000 Kentucky Cup series. The Classic will be part of a National Thoroughbred Racing Association national pick four wager and an ESPN broadcast originating from Belmont Park.

Perfect Drift, a 7-year-old gelding with earnings of nearly $4.6 million, will be trying to snap a nine-race losing streak in the 1 1/8-mile KC Classic and be prepping for a possible start in the Nov. 4 Breeders' Cup Classic at Churchill Downs.

Premium Tap, trained by John Kimmel, will be trying to confirm the form that made him a 31-1 winner of the Grade 1 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga in his last start.

Other probables for the Classic include Gouldings Green, Greeley's Galaxy, It's No Joke, and "probably at least another two or three," with Good Reward a possibility, according to Turfway's stakes coordinator, Randy Wehrman. Among the 32 nominees Wehrman said have been eliminated from consideration is Magnum, the California standout who surely would have been one of the favorites.

The other four Kentucky Cup races should make for an excellent series, if for no other reason than officials are expecting big, if not capacity, fields for each of them.

The top names among a field of about 10 fillies and mares likely for the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup are Beautiful Bets, La Reason, and either of the Marty Wolfson pair of Mocita and Prospective Saint. The $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint figures to get its biggest field in years, with Changing Weather and Likely among the top prospects. And both of the 2-year-old races, the KC Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, are expected to reach their 12-starter limits.

Entries for the Saturday card were to be drawn Wednesday at Turfway.

Significant night for two riders

The Wednesday night program at Turfway will mark milestones for Leparoux and Rafael Bejarano, two of the nation's leading jockeys.

For Leparoux, this will be the first time he has ridden without benefit of an apprentice allowance. His five-pound allowance expired after Sunday's races.

For Bejarano, the Wednesday card marks his first ride since a broken rib knocked him out of action Aug. 25 at Saratoga. Bejarano actually incurred the injury in an Aug. 14 spill at Saratoga but continued to ride until the pain became too severe. Bejarano is named on four mounts Wednesday.

With Bejarano sidelined, Leparoux has taken a commanding lead atop the Turfway jockey standings. Through 10 of 22 programs, Leparoux already has 26 winners, 11 more than his closest pursuer, Miguel Mena.

Both Bejarano and Leparoux will ride at the upcoming Keeneland and Churchill meets.

Keeneland ready for training

With the September yearling sale ending Monday at Keeneland, the stable area at the Lexington, Ky., track was scheduled to open Thursday leading up to a 17-day fall meet that begins Oct. 6.

Among the first arrivals will be eight horses from the Wayne Catalano stable, including unbeaten Dreaming of Anna, who will train at Keeneland before making her next start in the Nov. 4 BC Juvenile Fillies at Churchill. Catalano also is bringing Lewis Michael, who will run in the Oct. 13 Perryville Stakes.

Catalano isn't the only trainer who plans to use the new Polytrack at Keeneland as his Breeders' Cup launching pad. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin already has said he plans to send two top prospects, Invasor and Henny Hughes, to train at Keeneland after each horse has his final BC prep on Oct. 7 at Belmont Park.

Records go like dominoes

Several track records fell last week at Turfway, although their meaning is questionable, considering the newness of Polytrack and how a tighter surface this meet has lent itself to quicker clockings.

Among the new record holders are Running Play, 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.75; Malibu Mint, six furlongs in 1:08.40; He Loves Me Not, 6 1/2 furlongs in 1:15.99; and Giantscape, one mile in 1:36.23. Turfway has erased all records from the old dirt track in favor of the new Polytrack records.

* Trainer Ralph Nicks said he is considering the Grade 1 Frizette on Oct. 14 at Belmont as the possible next start for Lilly Carson, an impressive maiden winner at Saratoga in her Sept. 1 career debut. Lilly Carson earned an 81 Beyer Speed Figure in that lone start.

* Turfway has been honored by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce with an ImageMaker Award. The award was presented to Turfway president Bob Elliston at the chamber's annual black-tie dinner last Thursday.

* Churchill Downs Inc. announced last week that free online race replay videos are now being offered for all company racetracks. More information is available via churchilldowns.com.

* Churchill will be closed for simulcasting this week because of the Rolling Stones concert, which is expected to draw some 50,000 fans Friday night. Simulcasting is being held at the nearby Trackside annex through Sunday.