07/31/2005 11:00PM

Pacific Classic next for Perfect Drift


CHICAGO - Perfect Drift so thoroughly outclassed the other horses in Saturday's Washington Park Handicap that even after checking and losing all his momentum just more than a quarter-mile from the finish, he still won by more than four lengths while going away at the wire. Perfect Drift ended a long losing streak on dirt while setting a track record for 1 3/16 miles, and earned a return trip to the $1 million Pacific Classic Aug. 21 at Del Mar, his trainer Murray Johnson said.

In last year's Pacific Classic, Perfect Drift finished second to Pleasantly Perfect only two weeks after running second to Roses in May in the Whitney at Saratoga. This time, the spacing between starts works better, and Perfect Drift demonstrated Saturday that he still can produce a powerful race. He only earned a 102 Beyer Speed Figure, but the number fails to capture the essence of his performance. First, he overcame serious trouble in the Washington Park; second, he ran faster than any horse ever had before at Arlington, albeit at a rarely used distance, but on a day when the track surface wasn't especially fast; and third, Perfect Drift came out of the Washington Park like he'd had a stroll in the park.

"He came back very well," Johnson said Monday from his Kentucky base. "He really kind of annoyed us sometimes last year. He really almost takes these races too well - you're asking, 'Why didn't he run a little harder and get a little more tired?' "

No Pleasantly Perfects roam the West Coast this year, and Perfect Drift figures to be among the favorites at Del Mar.

"Timing wise, it's perfect," said Johnson. "He showed us he's as good as ever, and the race out there doesn't seem to be as tough as it was last

season. We'll get on a flight early in the week [of the race] and spend a few days out there, just like we did last year."

Suave possible for Pacific Classic

Perfect Drift could be joined in the Pacific Classic by Suave, who won a one-mile allowance race here last month in his first start of the season. The Pacific Classic is one of three spots being considered by Suave's connections, according to trainer Paul McGee; the Saratoga Breeders' Cup and the Iselin at Monmouth Park are the other two.

Suave, who resided just a cut below the best 3-year-olds last year, was nagged by a quarter crack for much of this year, but returned in fine form against third-level allowance horses here last out. He has since joined McGee's main string at Churchill Downs.

Suave's departure leaves Eyes on Eddy as the star of McGee's Arlington string. Eyes on Eddy cruised to a 10-length win in an overnight stakes race here Friday. The race was intended as a prep for the Aug. 20 Arlington Oaks, and that is next on Eyes on Eddy's agenda, McGee said.

Eyes on Eddy finished second to Summerly in the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds late this winter before losing her best form later in the spring. When she returned to action here, Eyes on Eddy began racing without blinkers, and she has gone from a high-strung filly on race day to a much more relaxed animal.

Million field a doozy - for now

Arlington racing officials need to inhale deeply. They have the better part of two weeks to hold their breath that Arlington Million Day will retain its current shape.

Pre-entries for the Million - accompanied by a $5,000 fee - are due by midnight Friday. If pre-entries were taken now, the race would have at least the maximum of 14 horses, and the list of entries is a who's who in U.S. grass racing. In no particular order, the horses expected to run are Kitten's Joy, Sweet Return, Good Reward, Leroidesanimaux, Whilly, Fourty Niner's Son, Cool Conductor, and King's Drama. Powerscourt, disqualified from first to fourth in last year's Million, also remains on course for the race. And Monday morning, trainer Graham Motion said he probably would pre-enter Better Talk Now along with his rabbit, Shake the Bank.

"I think there's a very good chance we'll pre-enter," Motion said. "Our goal has always been the Sword Dancer [at Saratoga], and it still is, but we still have in the back of our mind to keep our options open with the Million."

Three more horses are under consideration for the Beverly D.: Wonder Again, the 3-year-old filly Melhor Ainda, and Angara, who finished third Saturday in the Diana Handicap. They could join American horses Megahertz, Wend, Miss Terrible, and Halo Ola, and European horses Sundrop, Virginia Waters, New Morning, and Tarfah.

Chatahoochee War now is expected for the Secretariat, along with English Channel, Gun Salute, Purim, Rey de Cafe, Rush Bay, Merger, and Cosmic Kris.

Next step for Sorcerer's Stone

Sorcerer's Stone won the Honest Pleasure Stakes for 2-year-olds here Sunday, running his record to 2 for 2, and will be trained up to the Arlington-Washington Futurity on Sept. 18, trainer Pat Byrne said.

Sorcerer's Stone, a Gulch colt bought back from a 2-year-old sale this past spring for $130,000, runs for Kentuckians Thomas Gaines and Olin Gentry. Sunday, Sorcerer's Stone showed a combination of speed and tenacity to score a three-length victory over Cole Express, among the sharpest Arlington 2-year-olds seen this summer.

"I'm just amazed that he's showing so much talent sprinting, because physically he suggests he wants two turns," Byrne said. "I think when we get him stretched out, he's going to be better."

* Exceptional Ride, a 3-year-old turf horse, has been disqualified from an overnight stakes win here earlier this meet after diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, was detected in his system in a post-race test. Diclofenac is prohibited at any level on race day in Illinois. Ken McPeek, who has since retired as a trainer, was fined $1,000, but has appealed the ruling, and until the appeal is resolved, purse money from the race will not be redistributed.

* A pair of entry-level allowance races, one at two turns on turf, the other at seven furlongs on dirt, headline Wednesday's nine-race card.