07/05/2007 11:00PM

Perfect Drift, Brass Hat add punch to allowance


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was intended as an ordinary allowance race, but the horses it drew are anything but. Perfect Drift and Brass Hat - two of the most accomplished older horses to compete in Kentucky and beyond in recent years - are matched up in an extraordinary allowance race Sunday at Churchill Downs.

Carded as the sixth of 10 races, the $61,000 allowance drew a field of eight, with Perfect Drift drawn in post 3 and Brass Hat getting post 7. Governed by the liberal conditions of nonwinners of $21,900 three times in 2006-07, and scheduled for 1 1/16 miles on the main track, the race is a pivotal juncture in the careers of both geldings.

That is, Perfect Drift will be trying to show that he's more than a shadow of his former self as he attempts to snap a 14-race losing streak, while Brass Hat will be trying to show he is fully recovered from a sesamoid fracture that initially was feared to have put his career in jeopardy.

Perfect Drift, an 8-year-old gelding, has bankrolled $4,679,185 for breeder-owner William Reed, which makes him once again the leading career money earner in training in North America following the retirement last month of Invasor. Having started his career for Reed and trainer Murray Johnson to precious little fanfare at the 2001 fall meet at Churchill, Perfect Drift will be making his 46th start when he takes this rare dip into the allowance ranks Sunday. In his last start, Perfect Drift finished last in the June 2 Californian Stakes on Hollywood Park's synthetic Cushion Track surface.

"He's at home and happy on the track, and everything should go right," said Johnson, who is based at the nearby Trackside training center. "We gave him a little bit of an easy time since the Californian, and he's come back good. He seems to be as eager and keen as ever."

Brass Hat, a 6-year-old gelding bred and owned by Fred Bradley and trained by Bradley's son, Buff, has earned $1,233,473, although he would have had another $1.2 million to his credit if he had not been disqualified from second in the 2006 Dubai World Cup for a medication violation.

Brass Hat is unraced since finishing fifth, beaten just two lengths, in the cavalry charge of the Grade 1 Stephen Foster a little more than a year ago at Churchill. Shortly afterward, Brass Hat suffered a fracture during a routine workout that Buff Bradley initially thought was so severe that the gelding would be unable to race again. But surgery was not even needed to enable him to return to serious training this spring, although plenty of time was.

"I'm just excited to get to run him again," said Bradley.

At his peak, Brass Hat has proven a formidable performer, having captured five stakes, including the Ohio Derby and Indiana Derby at 3, and the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap and Grade 1 Donn Handicap early in 2006, his 5-year-old season.

Bradley has brought Brass Hat along with a steady series of workouts at Churchill.

"As I told my dad, we're just hoping for a good effort and let him come out of it healthy and ready to go for the next one," he said. "I think he'll run big."

Perfect Drift will be ridden by the meet's leading rider, Julien Leparoux, while Brass Hat will be guided by his longtime regular jockey, Willie Martinez.

The Sunday allowance isn't necessarily a two-horse race between Perfect Drift and Brass Hat, as several others enter with lofty credentials, including M B Sea, an earner of nearly $625,000, and Real Dandy, who is less than $25,000 from being the third millionaire in the race.