06/12/2005 11:00PM

Perfect Drift back for third Foster

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Perfect Drift, here with groom Richard Anderson, won the 2003 Stephen Foster Handicap.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - More than three years ago, Perfect Drift was little more than a footnote in postrace analyses of the 2002 Belmont Stakes, the race in which War Emblem lost his bid for a Triple Crown and Sarava became the longest-priced winner in race history when scoring at 70-1.

That may all seem like ancient history today, and in relative terms, it may be. Yet in the three years that have passed, Perfect Drift, who was a distant 10th under Eddie Delahoussaye in that Belmont, has covered miles and miles of ground and earned millions of dollars. Saturday, he will attempt to continue his climb up the all-time earnings list when he starts as a primary contender in the $750,000 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Perfect Drift, a 6-year-old gelding bred and owned by Dr. William Reed, enters the Grade 1 Foster with earnings of more than $3.2 million. This is the third straight year he has run in the Foster. He won in 2003 and finished third last year. Trainer Murray Johnson said he believes his stable star comes to this race primed for a huge effort, having run twice already this year, both times on turf.

"I think one of the main things about the race this year is it seems to have quite a few speed-oriented horses," Johnson said. "We've been subjected to some slow-pace races in the past, but this one might be right to our liking. We've got a big, strong 6-year-old in great shape right now. We'll be there Saturday doing our very best."

Perfect Drift, with Gary Stevens to ride, has been assigned 117 pounds, four fewer than topweighted Saint Liam. Other probable starters, with weights, for the 1 1/8-mile Foster are Badge of Silver, 119 pounds; Pollard's Vision, 117; Second of June, 117; Colonial Colony, 114; Eurosilver, 113; M B Sea, 113; and Gouldings Green, 112.

The Foster, along with the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap, are two of five races that will be shown live on a two-hour broadcast on the new Emirates Airlines Super Saturday on ESPN. The show starts at 5 p.m. Eastern.

Shadow Cast breezes for Fleur de Lis

Shadow Cast, the likely favorite for the Fleur de Lis, tuned up for her role as likely favorite when breezing a half-mile Monday at Churchill in 48.20 seconds.

The $300,000 Fleur de Lis is the richest of five supporting stakes on the Foster undercard. The other races are the $200,000 Jefferson Cup, $200,000 Northern Dancer, $200,000 Regret, and $100,000 Opening Verse.

Feature again on grass

Mostly because they tend to draw the biggest fields, Churchill's racing secretary, Doug Bredar, frequently has been carding allowances on the grass as the featured race at Churchill. That pattern holds true again for Wednesday, as an overflow field of fillies and mares has been entered in the ninth of 10 races, a $50,800 entry-level race at 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

Yes Beth, trained by Steve Flint, could be the favorite, having already come reasonably close to going through this condition. According to the weather forecast for Wednesday, the race appears likely to remain on the grass, unlike what happened here Sunday, when the Texas Glitter, a $72,000 overnight handicap, was forced to the main track by rain. Bayou Buster, at 14-1 the longest shot, prevailed in a five-furlong race reduced to five starters.

The weekly handicapping contest runs Wednesday from races 3 through 8. The pick six carryover is $3,867.

Music School okay

Trainer Neil Howard let out a sigh of relief following the 10th race Saturday when Music School came back from his career debut in relatively healthy fashion. Music School, a 2-year-old colt by A.P. Indy, incurred little more than a minor scrape on his hoof after stumbling badly soon after the start of the 5 1/2-furlong race. Jockey Robby Albarado did a terrific job in keeping his irons while keeping his mount moving forward.

Music School "grabbed his quarter a little, but it was nothing serious," Howard said.

Music School, bred and owned by the Will Farish-led partnership that had the same roles with 2003 Horse of the Year Mineshaft, is somewhat of an anomaly in that the progeny of A.P. Indy normally don't begin their careers so early. But Music School showed unusual precocity by leading all the way, even in spite of the troubled start.

"He's got a great demeanor, which bodes well for any horse," Howard said.

* Rafael Bejarano, the 22-year-old jockey who is the clear leader atop the standings at the Churchill spring meet, guided Andromeda's Hero to a second-place finish behind Afleet Alex in the Belmont, marking the best finish thus far in a Triple Crown race for Bejarano.

* The Steve Asmussen-trained horses in Barn 38 were cleared from quarantine restrictions Saturday for the purposes of racing and everyday training, although three Asmussen horses that previously had been isolated once again tested positive for the equine herpes virus. Those horses eventually will be moved off the grounds to a separate quarantine facility, Churchill officials said.

* A pair of Grade 1-winning females had bullet workouts over the weekend. Madcap Escapade went five furlongs Saturday in 59.20 seconds, while My Trusty Cat drilled five furlongs Sunday in 59 seconds.