10/20/2004 11:00PM

Perfect Drift to take the scenic route

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Lone Star Park
Kitten's Joy, the likely favorite in the Turf, gallops on Lone Star's main track on Thursday.

GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas - Perfect Drift won't be following the crowd to the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic. He is expected to be the lone starter in the field vanning - rather than flying - to Texas and is scheduled to leave his Kentucky base Sunday and arrive at Lone Star Park early in the morning on Monday, said his trainer, Murray Johnson.

Johnson estimated the trip was about 800 miles and would take between 16 and 17 hours. He said Pat Day will ride Perfect Drift if Azeri runs in the Distaff. If Azeri's connections opt for the Classic, Kent Desormeaux will ride Perfect Drift.

Perfect Drift is scheduled to work at Trackside Training Center in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday.

Johnson said traveling by van enables him to bring a stable pony for Perfect Drift, something he did not do when Perfect Drift flew to California for the Pacific Classic. Johnson borrowed a pony from a fellow trainer, but was not sure he would be able to procure one for the week of the Breeders' Cup, so he is bringing a pony along for Perfect Drift.

"They like each other," he said.

In seven starts this year, Perfect Drift, a winner of $2.8 million, has finished second five times: in the Alysheba at Churchill, the Grade 3 Cornhusker at Prairie Meadows, the Grade 1 Whitney at Saratoga, the Grade 1 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, and the Grade 2 Hawthorne Gold Cup.

Domestic Dispute gets acquainted with track

Domestic Dispute toured the main track at Lone Star on Thursday morning, one day after flying in from Southern California. He traveled one mile, between jogging and galloping, said Mickey Brennan, an exercise rider who regularly ships with Domestic Dispute.

Brennan said Domestic Dispute is scheduled to work Sunday or Monday. Trainer Paddy Gallagher said Domestic Dispute will work on turf. Domestic Dispute's first preference is the Mile.

Lone Star will open its turf course for workouts between 7:30 and 8 a.m. daily starting Sunday. Turf works before that date will be conducted after the main track closes at 10 a.m.

Also, the main track will open for training a half-hour earlier than usual, at 5:30 a.m., beginning Sunday, said Jeanette Hughes, assistant racing secretary at Lone Star. Although sunrise is not until about 7, the track has lights for its nighttime racing, and they are turned on every morning during early training hours.

Wonder Again, who jogged a mile and galloped the same distance Thursday, will likely work on turf Sunday. She is being pointed for the Filly and Mare Turf.

Early training for Afleet Alex

Afleet Alex, who will be one of the favorites in the Juvenile, was one of the first Breeders' Cup horses to track Thursday. His connections said he galloped about one mile and that trainer Tim Ritchey is scheduled to arrive Sunday. Afleet Alex could work Monday.

Afleet Alex has won 4 of his 5 starts, including the Grade 1 Hopeful and the Grade 2 Sanford, both at Saratoga.

Magna to install 'simplified' machines

The Texas Racing Commission on Thursday gave Magna Entertainment temporary approval to install a maximum of 50 "simplified wagering machines" at Lone Star Park. The approval is for a two-week period and will enable the track to showcase the unique betting machines to the large crowd expected next week for the Breeders' Cup.

Magna will need to seek permanent approval for the machines at a later date, said a spokesperson for the TRC. The machines are installed in a sectioned-off area on the first floor of the grandstand.

The machines are built to look like slot machines, but are parimutuel and offer limited bets on real-time races about every five minutes. The machines feature, among other data, virtual handicapping selections from animated characters.

Trainers find time for tee time

Patrick Biancone, Tom Proctor, and Dale Romans all are used to training far more horses than the handful they collectively have brought to Lone Star Park for the Breeders' Cup. With far more time than usual on their hands, they have been playing golf most every afternoon. Thursday, their foursome included Paul Holthus, who works for the horse transportation company Tex Sutton.

"Here is my schedule," Biancone said. "From 5 until 10, I am at the track. From 10:30 until 4, I golf. From 4:30, I am free."

* There were no flights scheduled to arrive at Lone Star on Thursday or Friday, but on Saturday trainer Nick Zito is expected to send Birdstone (Classic), In the Gold (Juvenile Fillies), and Sun King (Juvenile) for the Breeders' Cup. Also booked on the flight, which is coming from Albany, N.Y., is Pies Prospect, a candidate for the Grade 3, $250,000 Lone Star Derby on Oct. 29.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman