09/05/2005 11:00PM

Perfect Drift to return to Chicago for Gold Cup

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The Hawthorne Gold Cup will be Perfect Drift's BC Classic prep.

CHICAGO - Perfect Drift, who won the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington before finishing second in the Pacific Classic, will make his next start Sept. 24 in the Hawthorne Gold Cup.

"That's the spot we're going to use to go into the Breeders' Cup if all goes well," trainer Murray Johnson said Tuesday morning.

Based at the Churchill Downs training center in Louisville, Perfect Drift has made regular trips to Chicago throughout his career. Last year, he was favored at odds of 1-2 in the Hawthorne Gold Cup, but was upset by Freefourinternet. But Johnson said Perfect Drift, who breezed five furlongs on Sept. 3, returned from his California road trip in good physical condition and would come into the Gold Cup a relatively fresh horse, with just five starts this season.

"He's trained very well and looks great," Johnson said. "He's a little fresher this year, and I think you'll see him at his best. In years past, he might have done enough for one season by this time of year."

Spinster logical spot for Indy Groove

Indy Groove, the 4 1/2-length winner of the Arlington Matron last weekend, could make her next start in the Spinster Stakes at Keeneland, according to trainer Tom Proctor.

"Is it a good spot? I don't know. But is it a logical spot? Yes it is," Proctor said of the Grade 1 Spinster.

Indy Groove finished third in the Matron last year, and went on to run sixth in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Proctor believes Indy Groove is a better horse this year, but also said she was likely to be retired and become a broodmare at the end of this season.

Meanwhile, Proctor is tentatively pointing Purim to the Indiana Derby on Oct. 1 at Hoosier. Purim won the Arlington Classic and finished second in the American Derby before throwing in a clunker in the Secretariat Stakes. The Indiana Derby would mark Purim's first dirt start since a maiden win this past spring at Tampa Bay.

Cool Conductor had throat ailment

Cool Conductor has done some of his best work in Chicago, but was decidedly off form when he finished ninth of 10 in the Arlington Million on Aug. 13, three weeks after he had scored an impressive victory in the Arlington Handicap. It turns out there was a specific reason for the poor performance.

"He had some minor throat surgery after the Million," trainer Ralph Nicks said. "He flipped his soft palate, and had an ulcer on it. He'd had a history of that through his training, but it hadn't bothered him in the races since I had him."

Nicks said Cool Conductor is in training, and is being pointed to a start - not yet pinpointed - sometime in early October.

No Gazelle for Miss Matched

The trainer John Ward was tempted to send Arlington Oaks winner Miss Matched to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Gazelle this weekend, but said he prefers Miss Matched to continue racing around two turns. While the Gazelle is run at 1 1/8 miles, it's a one-turn race around the sprawling Belmont track.

Ward said he still is considering different races for Miss Matched, but the Indiana Oaks at Hoosier could mark her next start.

* The 2-year-old filly Lizzy's Township, who won a stakes at Mountaineer Park last month, will make her next start in the Arlington-Washington Lassie, trainer Jim DiVito said.

* There were overnight stakes races here Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Cape Town Lass failed as the heavy favorite Sunday in the Claire Marine Stakes, in which Strike Me Lucky scored a minor upset. Liz on Polk Street was an easy winner of the Safely Kept for female sprinters on Monday. And on Saturday, Cloudy's Knight won the Rossi Gold.