Perfect Drift has staying power

Times Staff Writer

One of the unfortunate aspects of horse racing is that the stars of the sport -- the horses -- are here today and gone tomorrow.

But occasionally, a top horse that has been gelded, meaning he can't reproduce, sticks around and has a long career.

Perfect Drift, who will run in the Grade I $250,000 Shoemaker Mile today on Hollywood Park's turf course, is one of those. He is 9 years old and has run in 46 races, winning 11.

"Wow, 9 years old," said retired jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, who rode Perfect Drift to a third-place finish in the 2002 Kentucky Derby. "It doesn't seem like it was that long ago.

"I thought we had a shot to win going into the stretch, but he just didn't have enough left in the tank and War Emblem won the race."

Twelve jockeys have ridden Perfect Drift, and Victor Espinoza will become No. 13 today.

Delahoussaye rode him only three times, once before the 2002 Derby and also in that year's Belmont, where he finished 10th.

Perfect Drift, who has earned nearly $4.7 million, hasn't raced since July but has been in training for four months and last week ran five furlongs in 58.80 seconds in a workout at Santa Anita.

The gelding is now trained by Richard Mandella, who was called in six months ago by owner William Reed after previous trainer Murray Johnson cut back on his workload.

Mandella said Reed told him, "If the horse acted like he wanted to do it, go ahead. If not, retire him."

Perfect Drift faces a tough field of eight in Hollywood Park's oldest stakes race. It began as the $2,500 feature on opening day, June 10, 1938.

Daytona and Ever a Friend are expected to battle it out today in an effort to establish which is the leading miler in Southern California.

Today's card also includes the Grade I $250,000 Gamely Stakes, in which Rutherienne and Precious Kitten head a field of five fillies and mares.


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