03/22/2002 12:00AM

Perfect Drift looks like value play

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This weekend's top Derby prep is Saturday's $500,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway. The race shapes up as a showdown between the top two local 3-year-olds, Request For Parole and Perfect Drift, and a few live invaders which include Azillion, Straight Gin, and Saratoga Blues.

Saratoga Blues comes into the Spiral with an undefeated 3-for-3 record and is expected to be the heavy favorite in the wide-open 8-horse field. However, while he should be a major factor in this race, Saratoga Blues only beat a questionable field in the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct and sure won't offer much wagering value here.

The overlay of the Spiral field figures to be Perfect Drift, who lost to Request For Parole here at Turfway Park in each of his last two races but should have an excellent chance to turn the tables on that rival at the Spiral's 1 1/8-mile distance. Perfect Drift has improved his Beyer figures in three consecutive races, and similar improvement today with new rider Eddie Delahoussaye aboard could equal a victory at big odds.

In case of rain, Perfect Drift has a high 340 Tomlinson wet number and has already run well in the slop at Turfway Park.

Another interesting horse in the Spiral is Azillion, who exits a pair of decent efforts against quality fields at Santa Anita. Azillion should benefit from today's added distance and could be very dangerous with a clean trip after a slow break and a wide trip may have cost him in his last two races.

Saratoga Blues has good speed and should get to the lead in the Spiral if he wants it. He will probably be pressured by Straight Gin and Request For Parole, however, and may have difficulty holding the lead through the stretch if a closer like Perfect Drift unleashes his best effort. Trainer Anthony Dutrow has already announced that Saratoga Blues will bypass the Kentucky Derby trail in favor of the Federico Tesio and Preakness, so it's reasonable to believe distance could be major question mark here.

Request For Parole, the winner of Turfway's Sprial prep, the Battaglia Memorial, by a nose over Perfect Drift may also have a problem the Spiral's distance based on the fact that his seven furlong and mile efforts look a little bit better than his races at 1 1/16 miles.

SELECTIONS:

SPIRAL STAKES

Turfway, Saturday - Race 10

Grade 2, 1 1/8 miles, purse: $500,000

1) Perfect Drift

2) Azillion

3) Saratoga Blues


$100 PLAY

Perfect Drift should offer attractive odds so play him to win and use him in exactas and trifectas along with Azillion, Saratoga Blues, and request For Parole.

$5 exacta box Perfect Drift/Azillion/Saratoga Blues ($30 bet)

$2 trifecta box Perfect Drift/Azillion/Saratoga Blues ($12 bet)

$2 trifecta key Perfect Drift over Azillion/Saratoga Blues/Request For Parole ($12 bet)

$46 to win on Perfect Drift