09/28/2006 12:00AM

New twist for Perfect Drift

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FLORENCE, Ky. - Five weeks from Saturday, Perfect Drift can make Breeders' Cup history by becoming the first horse to compete in the BC Classic for a fifth time.

But the 7-year-old gelding will first have to pass a critical test toward the BC Classic when he faces six other older horses in the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park.

Trainer Murray Johnson is confident that Perfect Drift, the likely favorite in the Grade 2 KC Classic, will snap a nine-race losing streak and leave little doubt that he deserves to return to the Breeders' Cup.

"Hopefully we'll get a good, convincing win," said Johnson. "I'm very happy with how he's doing. I really think he'll give a very good showing and we'll be able to move on to the next one."

Perfect Drift, bred and owned by Dr. William A. Reed's Stonecrest Farm, has amassed nearly $4.6 million, the highest bankroll for any horse still in training in America. Turfway Park has been the site of two of his career highlights - victories in the 2002 Lane's End Stakes and the 2003 KC Classic - but both came over the old dirt track, which Turfway has since replaced with Polytrack. Saturday will be the first time Perfect Drift will race over Polytrack.

"He handles every kind of track, so why wouldn't we think he would like it?" asked Johnson.

Perfect Drift, with Julien Leparoux to ride, will break from the outside post in the 1 1/8-mile Classic, the anchor event in the five-race, $825,000 Kentucky Cup series. The other races are the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup, $100,000 KC Sprint, $100,000 KC Juvenile, and $100,000 KC Juvenile Fillies.

The main rivals for Perfect Drift appear to be Premium Tap (post 1), a 31-1 winner of the Grade 1 Woodward in his last start, as well as Good Reward (post 2) and Greeley's Galaxy (post 5). The rest of the field is Ball Four (post 3), It's No Joke (post 4), and Alumni Hall (post 6). It's No Joke is cross-entered in Saturday's Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

The Classic is carded as the third of the five Kentucky Cup races, and the eighth of 12 overall. It will be part of a National Thoroughbred Racing Association national pick four wager and an ESPN broadcast originating from Belmont Park.

First post is 1:10 p.m. Eastern, with the Classic scheduled for 4:42. General admission is free. Because Saturday is College Scholarship Day, with $10,000 in scholarships being raffled off throughout the day, Turfway expects a young and sizable ontrack crowd.