09/26/2006 11:00PM

Three Grade 1 winners clash in Classic


FLORENCE, Ky. - Horseplayers will be able to pick and choose among quality and quantity when the five-race, $825,000 Kentucky Cup series is run for the 13th time Saturday at Turfway Park.

While just seven older horses were entered in the Kentucky Cup anchor race, the $350,000 Classic, capacity fields of 12 or more were entered in the other four races. Thirteen were entered in the $175,000 Turfway Breeders' Cup, 12 in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Sprint, 14 in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile, and 13 in the $100,000 Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies.

The Grade 2 Classic makes up for its smaller numbers with a field of highly accomplished handicap horses. Besides Perfect Drift, a Grade 1 winner whose bankroll of nearly $4.6 million is the highest among any horse still in training in North America, the 1 1/8-mile race attracted two other Grade 1 winners: Good Reward, who captured the Manhattan at Belmont Park in June 2005, and Premium Tap, who took the Woodward at Saratoga earlier this month.

The Classic field also includes two more graded winners, Greeley's Galaxy and Alumni Hall. The cast is rounded out by Ball Four and It's No Joke.

Perfect Drift will break from the outside post when making his first start on Polytrack and first under jockey Julien Leparoux. Trainer Murray Johnson said he chose the KC Classic instead of another rich Saturday race, the Hawthorne Gold Cup, partly because he wants to see if "we need to be looking for, or running away from, races on the Polytrack."

One unexpected defection from the Classic lineup was Gouldings Green.

"At this point, the competition might be a little too much for him," said trainer Tony Reinstedler. "I just thought it best to hold off and look for another spot."

The Classic is carded as the third of the five Kentucky Cup events, and the eighth of 12 overall. It will be part of an NTRA National Pick Four wager and an ESPN broadcast originating from Belmont Park. First post Saturday is 1:10 p.m. Eastern.

Probable top contenders in the other Kentucky Cup events are as follows: Prospective Saint and Splendid Blended in the Turfway BC (race 6); Likely and Changing Weather in the KC Sprint (race 7); Shermanesque and Izzie's Halo in the KC Juvenile (race 9); and Kauai Calls and Cherokee Sheik in the KC Juvenile Fillies (race 10).