Monday, March 25, 2002

Spiral winner glides into Derby picture

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Although his next start remains in question, Stonecrest Farm's Perfect Drift emerged in perfect condition from his narrow victory in Turfway Park's $500,000 Lane's End Spiral Stakes (Grade II) Saturday.

        Responding to Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye's urgings, Pefect Drift surged through the final 50 yards to defeat Irish-bred Azillion by a neck.

        Request for Parole, who had defeated Perfect Gift by a nose in Turfway's John Battaglia Memorial Stakes, finished a nose farther back in third Saturday.

        “Perfect Drift came out of it great,” the colt's Australian-born trainer, Murray Johnson, said Sunday morning at his base at the Trackside Training Center in Louisville. “He was playing and nipping at me. Unless you had a peppermint, he didn't want to talk to you, though.”

        Stonecrest owner Dr. William A. Reed and Johnson will determine in a few days the next start for the homebred son of Dynaformer. The Kentucky Derby is definitely in their plans.

        Azillion, who gained the lead in midstretch and battled favorite Request for Parole to the wire for second, is stabled a Keeneland. “We're trying to figure out what to do next,” trainer Bob Hess said from his Southern California base. “We may go straight into the (May 4) Kentucky Derby or go to the (May 11) Lone Star Derby.”

        Hess acquired Azillion for the partnership of Jim Sciabelli, Dr. Tom Harris and Jack Cohen following his victory on the all-weather racing surface at Lingfield Park in England last fall.

        Azillion is still seeking his first U.S. victory after two third-place finishes in California and Saturday's runner-up effort.

        Request for Parole, who set most of the pace under five-time Spiral winner Pat Day, will head to Churchill Downs after spending the winter at Turfway Park. Trainer Steve Margolis is undecided on the colt's next start.

        “Wherever I run him,” Margolis said, “I would like Pat Day to ride him back, and the owners would, too.”

        Plans for Spiral also-rans Gold Dollar, Straight Gin, Benny the Hawk, My Man Ryan and Saratoga Blues were also undetermined.

        Previously unbeaten Saratoga Blues, sent off the second choice, was the biggest disappointment.

        “We scoped the horse and found blood in his lungs,” trainer Tony Dutrow said before departing for Laurel Park, Md. “Other than that, he cooled out well. Something happened in his air passages. I don't know what effect it had, but it didn't help.”


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