05/30/2002 12:00AM

Regimen of patience yields classic placing

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Perfect Drift - winner of the Spiral Stakes, third in the Kentucky Derby, and a horse with considerable support for the Belmont Stakes - is the best racehorse yet from the breeding and racing program of Dr. William A. Reed. A heart surgeon, Reed owns the 100-acre Stonecrest Farm in the city limits of Kansas City, Mo., and there he raises his annual crop of yearlings before sending them on to trainer Murray Johnson for the finishing work that will bring them to the races.

Johnson said, "Dr. Reed foals the mares in Kentucky, breeds them back, then ships them back to Missouri. The foals grow up and are broken there before they come to me." Noting that he comes from a background of breeding horses to race, Johnson said once the horses come to him, "I try to find places they can win but don't push on them too hard." Johnson and Reed take a more personalized approach to racing and training the horses, and the trainer said, "We put our horses through steady training at 2, but we don't really put them through a 2-year-old program."

For instance, Perfect Drift started twice at 2, winning and running second, and Johnson said, "We don't feel we've chewed up Perfect Drift with a lot of racing. The program wasn't geared for the classics, but you have to go with the individual, and Perfect Drift showed exceptional ability very early. He worked with Repent and then Take Charge Lady and worked well. So I knew he was very talented, and he is very intelligent, especially in the sense of doing the right thing at the right time."

Although he didn't put in too many heavy-duty miles as a juvenile, Perfect Drift has had a steady career, with three wins, three seconds, and a third from seven starts. This steady and careful regimen has brought the young athlete to a classics-placing only a week after his third chronological birthday. Johnson said, "Even to make it to the Derby was a great thrill. Now he's happy and sound so we can have a good horse at 3 and, hopefully, for a long time to come."

Since he's a gelding, Perfect Drift could race as long as his health and enthusiasm remain in good order. Johnson said that the decision to geld Perfect Drift "was just practical management. We geld them all as yearlings so they can run together. Stonecrest is a small operation, and the farm's just not that big." The results from the small operation have been quite good, however. In addition to Perfect Drift, Reed has bred Perfect Drift's stakes-placed half-sister Raintree Lake (by Salt Lake) and three other stakes winners.

Reed acquired Perfect Drift's dam, the stakes-winning Naskra mare Nice Gal, for $18,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale in 1993, when she was in foal to Salt Lake. A mare of quality and refinement, Nice Gal went to Three Chimneys stallion Dynaformer because Reed thought her foals needed more bone. An immense son of English Derby winner Roberto, Dynaformer has all the bone and substance a horse can possess and still become a multiple graded stakes winner.

The result was Perfect Drift. Johnson said the gelding "is about 16 to 16.1 hands, with big, very alert ears that are expressive of his mood and interest. He's a regular bay with good balance, and he's starting to bulk up a little now." Overall, the Dynaformers have prospered on dirt and on turf. Johnson said, "I've got another Dynaformer with great big flat feet made for turf, but Perfect Drift is not that way. He's much more a dirt-type horse."

The versatility that he finds in the Dynaformer stock is another factor in Reed's selection of mates for his mares. Johnson said, "He likes to go with multipurpose stallions so you have some options of dirt, turf, short, or long races."

Johnson and Kentucky farm owner Will Wofford helped shape Reed's views on breeding, and Johnson candidly admitted that "we didn't set about breeding a Derby horse. It was just a matter of choosing pedigrees that would give you an option to go long." In acquiring Perfect Drift's dam, Johnson found soundness and consistency in the pedigree, as Nice Gal's sire is Naskra, one of the most consistent and versatile sires of his time and very useful broodmare sire. The mare's next two dams are by the tough and consistent Vigors and leading sire What a Pleasure.

Nice Gal, now 17, is booked to Dynaformer.