The din of loudspeakers and jubilant Kentucky Derby crowds failed to jangle the nerves of the classy bay Thoroughbred who once ran the Derby himself, placing 3rd in 2002, and who this year led Triple Crown hopeful California Chrome to the starting gate.
With the steely confidence of an alpha male who’d been there before, now dressed in purple flowers in his neatly braided mane, Perfect Drift moved alongside the flashy red racehorse who won the Derby (and later the Preakness) and stands at history’s door.
In a career that earned more than $4.7 million, Perfect Drift’s career highlights include 3rd place finishes at the Derby and the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and a win at the 2003 Kentucky Cup Classic.
Dam: Nice Gal
Foal date: April 29, 1999
Highlights: 3rd Kentucky Derby, 2002; 3rd Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge, 2005Debuting May 3 in his second career as a Churchill downs pony May 3, his tough-guy attitude served him well as he confidently braved the crowds and the hoopla to lead Chrome to the same gate from which he once sprang.
For Perfect Drift’s friends and connections, it was nearly as memorable watching him as it was watching history in the making.
Garrett Smith, manager of Stonecrest Farm of Kansas, which owns Perfect Drift, says he and the big bay’s owner Dr. William Reed were thrilled with their horse’s performance in his new job.
“He’s a smart horse. He’s a big horse, he’s about 16.3 hands, and he’s sound. He has the personality for this work because he’s an alpha male and won’t take (guff) from another horse,” Smith says affectionately of the horse he has known since 2004. “If another horse goes to bite him, he can just turn his ear” and make them stop.
Smith adds, “Dr. Reed and (his wife) Mary were thrilled for him in his new job, and happy he was doing so well.
Perfect Drift landed his new position with seasoned pony rider Monnie Goetz earlier this year. Goetz, an expert rider who credits her father Tom Hawkins, a leading Nebraska horseman for teaching her everything she knows, knew instantly that Perfect Drift was ideal for the high-pressure job.
“The Derby is quite a powerful race, with a lot of noise and action. And I thought if any horse deserves to do the job, it was Drift. He’s a pretty special horse, and I’ve known him his whole career. He was a great racehorse, very intelligent, and I knew he’d be great at anything.”
And he was great.
When Goetz leaned down from her position on Perfect Drift to take hold of California Chrome’s lead rope, she felt all confidence as she sat on her rock solid pony. And the pair walked on to answer the call of destiny.
Author’s note—I’m reposting this story today, June 7, 2014, Belmont Stakes Day. Good luck Chrome—bring it home!