09/13/2004 12:00AM

Perfect Drift to skip Ky. Cup


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Murray Johnson said Monday that Perfect Drift will not attempt to defend his championship Saturday in the $350,000 Kentucky Cup Classic, a development that will make Roses in May an even heavier favorite in the richest of the five Kentucky Cup races at Turfway Park in Florence.

Johnson cited a busy summer schedule for Perfect Drift, a 5-year-old gelding who has earned over $2.7 million. "We had the three races out of town," he said, alluding to the Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows in Iowa, the Whitney at Saratoga, and the Pacific Classic at Del Mar. "I really don't want to miss the Hawthorne Gold Cup in two weeks, and if any little thing went wrong Saturday, we'd have to miss it. I'd love to run him Saturday, but it's just asking too much."

Perfect Drift had an easy five-furlong breeze Monday at his Trackside Louisville base, timed in 1:03.60, but Johnson said the workout had no bearing on his decision.

"He's actually doing great," he said. "He's just done so much so quick. The Hawthorne race is a very good spot for us. The horse is happy and relaxed right now, so we'll crank him up and have him ready to go there."

Perfect Drift swept the KC Classic and Hawthorne Gold Cup last fall, but this year the gelding has gone winless in six starts while earning more than $500,000.

Meanwhile, Roses in May tuned up for the Classic with a five-furlong workout under exercise rider Faustino Ortiz in 1:01.20 Saturday at Churchill Downs. John Velazquez has the mount in the Grade 2 KC Classic.

In his last start Aug. 7, Roses in May won the Grade 1 Whitney Handicap at 1 1/8 miles, the same distance as the KC Classic. Trainer Dale Romans settled on the Turfway race as the final prep for Roses in May for the 1 1/4-mile Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 30.

"That work Saturday really puts us on target," said Romans. "I'll probably just van him up early race day, although I'm still thinking of sending him up a day or two early. Either way, he's ready to run."

The defection of Perfect Drift may prompt trainer Neil Howard to run Alumni Hall in the KC Classic. Howard said he would decide later in the week. Entries for all five Kentucky Cup races will be drawn Thursday at a press luncheon.

As for the rest of the Classic field, Turfway officials said Monday they are expecting the following older horses: Adreamisborn, with Russell Baze riding for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer; Pie N Burger, trained by Cole Norman; and either of the Kiaran McLaughlin-trained pair of Seattle Fitz or Eye of the Tiger, both of whom were scheduled to work Tuesday at Belmont Park.

The KC Classic is run under handicap conditions. Roses in May will be the starting highweight at 118 pounds, spotting each of the others two pounds or more.

Admission is free Saturday at Turfway, although reserved seats are for sale. Television coverage will be provided by TVG.

In other Kentucky Cup races:

* Robby Albarado has been named to ride likely favorite Mayo On the Side in the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup. At least five other fillies and mares are probable for the 1 1/16-mile Turfway BC, among them Angela's Love, Class Above, Fly Away Angel, Hippogator, and Susan's Angel.

* Cuvee heads a typically strong cast for the $100,000 KC Sprint, a six-furlong race that is restricted to 3-year-olds and usually produces a starter or two for the BC Sprint. Other probables include Heckle, Intrinsic Worth, Level Playingfield, Quick Action, and Silver Minister.

* One of the weaker races appears to be the $100,000 KC Juvenile, the race that in recent years has had top horses such as Boston Harbor, Point Given, Repent, and Vindication. Turfway officials said the only confirmed starters as of Monday were Greater Good, Magna Graduate, and either of the D. Wayne Lukas-trained pair of Consolidator or Storied Cat.

* Trainer Bernie Flint intends to run either Im a Dixie Girl or Runway Model in the $100,000 KC Juvenile Fillies while saving the other for the Arlington-Washington Lassie the next day. Whichever one runs here might be the favorite in a field expected to also include Carmandia, Jules Best, Punch Appeal, Victorious Halo, and Winning Season.