Updated on 09/17/2011 10:58PM

Perfect Drift still has it

David Zenner
Perfect Drift wins the Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park on Saturday.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - Stopped cold a quarter-mile from the finish, Perfect Drift still made hash of the , winning the race for the second time in three years and setting a track record on Saturday at Arlington Park.

In other words, Perfect Drift remains the same high-class horse that racing fans have gotten to watch the last five racing seasons, a near eternity in this age of here-today, gone-tomorrow racehorses.

Perfect Drift easily won the 2003 Washington Park Handicap, but this time he ran more than a second faster, clocking 1:54.27 for the rarely run distance of 1 3/16 miles, by far the fastest time ever recorded here. It was a good way to quiet a chorus of naysayers who harped on Perfect Drift's losing streak on dirt, which dated back almost two years.

The streak's end lgave a lift to Murray Johnson, who trains Perfect Drift for the Stonecrest Farm of William and Mary Reed. All smiles afterward, Johnson was asked if he felt relief. "Quite a lot," he said.

But Johnson never worried during the Washington Park, even when Perfect Drift and jockey Mark Guidry were hemmed in on the rail around the far turn.

"It didn't bother me. Guid is Mr. Cool," Johnson said.

Mambo Train had gone to the lead, tracked by Cryptograph and Billy Allen through slowish fractions of 24.44 seconds for a quarter-mile and 48.05 for a half. The pace quickened toward the end of the backstretch run, but the field stayed compact, and Guidry was locked in at the rail. The inevitable trouble came just before the quarter pole, when Guidry had to take up sharply, and Perfect Drift lost all his momentum.

"They came back to me a little quicker than I anticipated," Guidry said. "But once I dropped my hands on him, he knew what to do."

Perfect Drift took a breath, gathered himself, and charged between horses once he straightened out in the stretch. Cleanly through the seam, he was gone, and they scored by 4 1/4 lengths over Mambo Train, who came back along the inside to outfinish Home of Stars for second.

His losing streak over, Perfect Drift will have more prominent stops on his agenda. And he showed Saturday he still belongs in them.