06/23/2006 12:00AM

Same plan as last year


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Murray Johnson plans to the follow an identical schedule with $4.4 million earner Perfect Drift that he mapped out for him last year - aiming for the same results, or better.

Johnson said Friday that Perfect Drift came out of his runner-up finish in the June 17 Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill in good condition and would be pointed toward the Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park, a race he won last year. The Washington Park Handicap, a $300,000 race at 1 3/16 miles, will be run July 29.

Thereafter, the 7-year-old Perfect Drift would likely be pointed toward the Grade 1 Pacific Classic on Aug. 20 at Del Mar, he said. He ran second in that race in 2005.

If Perfect Drift runs in those two races, his 2006 schedule of stakes races through the spring and summer would precisely mirror those from last year.

He could meet one of his old rivals in the Washington Park Handicap, Suave, who trainer Paul McGee said is being pointed toward that race. The pair have not faced one another in 2006, but met twice late last year. Perfect Drift finished narrowly in front of Suave when third in the Breeders' Cup Classic. Suave ran fifth. Suave ran in front of Perfect Drift when second in the Clark Handicap last year. Perfect Drift finished third.

Suave, winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Breeders' Cup Handicap last summer, won a money allowance over Second of June at Churchill June 16.

What's next for Seek Gold?

As for Seek Gold - who edged Perfect Drift by a nose in the Stephen Foster - his plans remain undecided.

"He came back great," said trainer Ron Moquett. "We'll take a look around and find a spot that sets up for us."

He said he would prefer to space Seek Gold's races, believing that would produce the horse's best efforts. Seek Gold won the Stephen Foster off a break of approximately a month and a half.

Virden wins first start back

Virden, racing for the first time since winning the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at Hollywood Park in May 2005, led from start to finish in winning the featured eighth race at Churchill Thursday, a $68,000 allowance.

Taking command from the start, Virden set a soft early pace and easily had enough left in the stretch to pull away from stretch-out sprinter Mocha Queen. She won by 2 1/2 lengths, running a mile on firm turf in 1:36.17. Apprentice Julien Leparoux rode Virden for trainer Bobby Frankel.

Her victory, Leparoux's one winning ride of the day, moved Leparoux within two victories of leading rider Rafael Bejarano. Bejarano - who rode only one horse Thursday, finishing sixth behind Virden on Miss Wellspring - led Leparoux by a 58-56 margin heading into Friday's card.

Lemons Forever targets Mother Goose

Trainer Dallas Stewart said Friday that Lemons Forever, winner of the Kentucky Oaks, is being aimed for the July 1 Mother Goose Stakes at Belmont Park. Earlier this month Stewart had said he was considering the Mother Goose and the July 22 Coaching Club American Oaks as possible races for her first post-Kentucky Oaks start. The Mother Goose is at 1 1/8 miles; the Coaching Club American Oaks is run at 1 1/4 miles.

Mena moves tack to Churchill

Jockey Miguel Mena, 19, who through Thursday ranked seventh in the Arlington Park rider standings with 15 wins from 97 mounts, will begin riding at Churchill Downs next week, said his new agent, Steve Elzey.

Mena, who began riding in 2003, has ridden 166 winners from 1,567 mounts. He will ride at Ellis Park after the Churchill Downs meet ends July 16, Elzey said.

Stalls full at Ellis Park

Doug Bredar, racing secretary for both Churchill Downs and Ellis Park, said Ellis Park has filled its barn area of approximately 1,000 stalls, a positive indication heading into that meet, which begins July 19 and runs through Sept. 4. The track had struggled at times to fill stalls.

Trainer Larry Jones, who in recent years had one of the strongest barns at Ellis Park, is not expected to race his horses at Ellis this year after shifting his stable to Delaware Park, Bredar said.

Ellis Park, which continues to repair and rebuild its facilities after suffering tornado damage last fall, reopened for training earlier this month.