08/05/2003 12:00AM

Perfect Drift wants action


CHICAGO - Memo to those who saw Perfect Drift crush foes in the Washington Park Handicap July 19 at Arlington: The best may be yet to come.

Perfect Drift, in his major work for the Aug. 16 Arlington Million, sizzled through a Saturday workout at the Trackside training center in Louisville, Ky. With his regular workout rider Joe Deegan aboard, Perfect Drift breezed five furlongs in a bullet 59.60 seconds, a terrifically fast work for the surface there. Trackside clockers termed the work "handily," and trainer Murray Johnson said Deegan never moved on Perfect Drift.

"Joe never asked him," said Johnson, who timed Perfect Drift's six-furlong gallop-out in 1:12.60. "He went off easy and he came home the last three-eighths in 34 flat. He's worked the last three-eighths in 33 and change before."

Perfect Drift began his year in turf races, winning an allowance at Keeneland and finishing a close fourth in the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on Kentucky Derby Day. Back on dirt, Perfect Drift beat Mineshaft in the Stephen Foster and galloped to an easy win here in the Washington Park. The question remains: Is Perfect Drift as good on turf as on dirt? Johnson and owner William Reed think he is, and Johnson contends Perfect Drift hadn't hit full stride when he was defeated in the Woodford Reserve.

"He seems bigger and stronger than ever right now," Johnson said. "The last race didn't seem to take anything out of him. Usually, I send horses to the farm for a week or 10 days after a race. Him, he raced on Saturday and went back to the track Wednesday. I knew he needed to get back."

Perfect Drift works once more before the Million, on Saturday, before vanning to Arlington next Thursday, Johnson said.

Owsley gets unexpected opportunity

With Ipi Tombe likely out for the year and Golden Apples finished racing for good, the Beverly D. has lost its top two horses. The trainer Randy Schulhofer has taken notice.

A few days ago Schulhofer was on the fence for the Beverly D. with his good grass mare Owsley, but the defections have altered his perspective.

"I'd say right now we're leaning toward coming," Schulhofer said Tuesday from New York. "This may be the time to give her a shot in a Grade 1."

It may indeed. Owsley shipped here for the July 26 Modesty Handicap, won by a length, and looked good doing it. After a slow start to her season, Owsley seems to be revving up, and she has trained like a peaking horse since returning to New York.

"She came out of the race great," said Schulhofer. "She had a beautiful work yesterday [at Saratoga] on the Oklahoma turf training track. She's doing really well right now."

Even so, Schulhofer hasn't entirely committed Owsley to the Beverly D. "If we don't go there, we can stick around for the Glens Falls here," he said.

While the Million and the Secretariat both could have large fields this year, the Beverly D. is likely to go with only a handful of horses. Voodoo Dancer heads the field, and trainer Bobby Frankel will send at least one and perhaps two horses for the race. Also scheduled to run is Walzerkoenigin, a multiple Group 2-winning German filly.

Lakenheath Gardenia-bound

Trainer Gene Cilio confirmed Lakenheath as a starter in the Gardenia Handicap at Ellis Park this weekend. Lakenheath finished second in the Gardenia last year before winning the Arlington Matron here, and Cilio hopes to follow the same course this season.

"There aren't too many races for her during the summer, and the Gardenia and the Matron have been our ultimate goals," Cilio said.

Meanwhile, Cilio said the Illinois-bred turf horse Act of War is likely to make his next start in the $100,000 John Henry Handicap here. Act of War, who has reached peak form this season, came flying in the stretch and was a close fifth last month in the Arlington Classic.

"I know he can run with that kind of horse if he gets the right pace," said Cilio. "He wants to run the last three-eighths of a mile, not the first three."

Act of War's major objective is the $300,000 Kentucky Cup Turf Handicap on Sept. 20 at Kentucky Downs.

Chilling Effect looks good

Trainer Chris Block has always thought something of Chilling Effect, a 4-year-old turf filly he trains. It took her awhile to show in the afternoon what Block had seen in the morning, but Chilling Effect finally came to hand this summer. She won her maiden with a powerful late rush here June 4, and was a strong closing third in her last start July 13. Thursday, she is the pick to break through the first allowance level in Arlington's featured eighth race, a 1 1/16-mile grass allowance for fillies and mares.

And if Chilling Effect does not prove successful, then perhaps her stablemate Adorable Audrey will. Adorable Audrey, who finished third at this class level when she last raced on June 22, must overcome post 10, while Chilling Effect, who may prefer to race outside other horses, needs to work out a trip from the rail.