10/11/2002 12:00AM

Najran splashes to Perryville win


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Najran made his first stakes race a memorable one when he splashed to a sensational 9 1/4-length victory Friday in the fourth running of the $84,075 Perryville Stakes at Keeneland.

Trained by Nick Zito and ridden by Pat Day, Najran drew off from Soaring Free and Flying Free before proceeding to return $5.60 as favorite in a field of nine 3-year-olds. He finished the Beard Course distance of seven furlongs and 184 feet in 1:26.00 over a track rendered sloppy by daylong rain.

Flying Free, an 11-1 shot, finished second, another 2 1/4 lengths ahead of late-running Premier Performer.

Danthebluegrassman, part of a Bob Baffert-trained stable entry that was sent away the 2-1 second choice, was another neck back in fourth.

Before an ontrack crowd of 11,714, Najran was always prominent after breaking sharply. While Soaring Free maintained a short lead, Najran just glided along, poised to take over whenever Day called on him.

Najran, a gray Kentucky-bred colt by Runaway Groom, had won three of five previous starts for his owner, the Buckram Oak Farm. His previous two races had been particularly sharp, as he won back-to-back allowances at Saratoga.

"All along, we've been thinking about what a special horse he's been," said Zito. "Obviously, this was a tough field. Everybody wants to run at Keeneland, and they all showed up today."

Zito said he was not sure where Najran would run next. "We're proud, we're happy," he said. "That was an absolutely super effort today."

The 6-2 exacta paid $57.80 and the 6-2-9 trifecta paid $255.40.

Walden to train Team Valor-owned Grand

Grand, a 2-year-old colt who was recently purchased by Team Valor, arrived at trainer Elliott Walden's Churchill Downs barn Thursday morning but is through racing for the year, said Walden.

Grand finished third last weekend in the Grey Stakes at Woodbine.

A son of Grand Lodge, the colt won a race on an "all-weather" course in England by 23 lengths, prompting Team Valor to buy him.

"We'll take him down to Payson Park this winter and get him ready for some of the 3-year-old races at Gulfstream," said Walden.

Perfect Drift may try BC Classic

Perfect Drift, the gelding who won the Indiana Derby at Hoosier Park last weekend off a four-month layoff, might be pointed to the Breeders' Cup Classic, trainer Murray Johnson said Friday.

Johnson said he and breeder-owner Dr. William Reed are "tossing around" the idea of running Perfect Drift, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby before being badly beaten in the June 9 Belmont Stakes.

Pre-entries for all Breeders' Cup races are due Tuesday.

Distant relations

There is a racetrack adage that refers to the arbitrary nature of how bloodlines spawn both the good and the bad. It goes something like this: "Mrs. Mays had nine boys, but only one Willie."

That saying might have applied in a couple of different instances Thursday at Keeneland when half-brothers to fabulously successful racehorses failed to hit the board in separate races.

Irish Legacy finished a tired fourth in the fifth race, an entry-level allowance. He is a 3-year-old gelding by Storm Cat out of Ingot Way, making him a half-brother to Skip Away.

And Rude Cat finished last in the seventh race, a third-level allowance. He is a 4-year-old Colt by Tabasco Cat out of Marshesseaux, making him a younger half-brother to Left Bank, the multiple graded winner who died last week from complications from colic surgery.

No holiday racing here

Unlike many other tracks that will host racing Monday because of the Columbus Day holiday, Keeneland will maintain its regular schedule by remaining dark. The five-day race week resumes Wednesday.

The only two stakes here next week are the $100,000 Valley View on Saturday and the $125,000 Thoroughbred Club of America on Sunday. Both carry Grade 3 rankings.