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Perfect Drift's owner envisions perfect ending

By BRANT JAMES, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 7, 2002

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Murray Johnson has an appreciation of spoilers.

"I'm from Australia," the trainer said, leaning against a fence post Thursday morning. "Australians love spoiling things. You used to have something called America's Cup and then we took that away from you."

Johnson therefore has no problem with Perfect Drift taking War Emblem's fan-popular hopes to become the 12th Triple Crown winner.

Perfect Drift, who could become the second gelding to win the Belmont Stakes, has not raced since finishing third behind War Emblem and Proud Citizen in the Kentucky Derby. He and Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye will not be able to bring down War Emblem alone, Johnson said. War Emblem will need some softening up by early speed horses, presumably Wiseman's Ferry.

"We'll sit in our spot and hopefully we'll have some help from some other horses," Johnson said. "In the Derby, no one else went up there and we were the only horse to put any pressure on him at all. He had too much left for one, and I think any horse that goes to him is going to be in trouble. The second or third horse, we'll see what happens."

Delahoussaye, whom Johnson calls "a real good pilot" for the demanding 11/2-mile race, has two wins in three Belmont starts.

Oh, and War Emblem trainer Bob Baffert does not have the concession cornered on destiny, either, Johnson said. Baffert has said fate "owes" him a Triple Crown after he fell short in the Belmont with Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998).

"I have just as much fate as he does and I deserve just as many things as he does," said Johnson, who in his first Belmont start in 1991 finished 10th with Green Alligator. "I came here 11 years ago and had a big disappointment, so I'm owed something, too."

ACTIVITY: War Emblem jogged 11/8 miles just before 9 a.m and returned to the barn 12 minutes later, slightly sweating in the humid conditions.

SCRATCHED: Puzzlement, runner-up in the Grade II Peter Pan Stakes on May 25, was scratched because of a bruised right front foot.

"We discovered he was lame this morning when we were preparing to go to the track with him," said trainer Allen Jerkens, who has had four Belmont starters.

BIG BREAK: Sunday Break should finally get his Triple Crown opportunity Saturday. The Japanese-bred had insufficient graded earnings to qualify for the Derby, after which trainer Neil Drysdale brought him back to New York to train for the Belmont.

Sunday Break showed Drysdale he was ready by winning the Peter Pan Stakes. Drysdale has not entered a horse in the third leg of the Triple Crown since 1992, when A.P. Indy became the only horse to win the Peter Pan and Belmont.

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