Horseplayers’ holiday: First Saturday in May

April 30, 2002 10:58 AM
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DATES TO REMEMBER! Start with December 25. That date lives forever in the heart of most of us. Thanksgiving Day is divided. Turkey farmers rejoice. As for the turkeys, that’s another story.

  I grew up as a horseplayer. Although I like Super Bowl Sunday, the World Series, Final Four and the Masters, nothing equals the First Saturday in May. That is the date when a dazzling field of horses gathers in Louisville, Kentucky, to contest the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Since that is just around the corner, I thought I might reach into my bag of tricks and lay my Derby horse on you.

I’ve more than held my own in picking Derby winners. But, I’ve never been a chalk player. I’m not about to start now. I like a long shot ”” Perfect Drift.

Why?

His Route to the Roses interests me. Trainer Murray Johnson has kept his prize 3-year-old in Kentucky. He is bedded down at the Sports Spectrum, a few furlongs from the track. He’s had six lifetime starts with three wins and three seconds, including a victory at Churchill.

His pedigree is more than decent. He’s the 3-year-old son of Dynaformer out of Nice Gal by Naskra.

Ever since the days of Carry Back, I’ve taken a fancy to horses that come from behind. Perfect Drift loves coming from off the pace. On top of that, I’m impressed with his last outing on April 19, when he cut 6 furlongs in 1:13 3/5.

Want more?

In 1982 I was high on Gato Del Sol, a long shot winner ($44.40). I don’t think I ever had a bigger Derby score. Eddie Delahoussaye was in the irons. He will also be there guiding Perfect Drift on Saturday.

How do I see the finish?

There’s a lot of speed in the race. War Emblem leads the way, closely followed by Buddha, Came Home, Mayakovsky and Request for Parole. They’ll be ding-donging trying to get to the wire. Perfect Drift should be in the middle of the pack with dead aim on the finish line. When they start backing up in late stretch, Eddie D. will call upon Perfect Drift and he’ll answer the call.

Listen, if you like a price, here’s a spot. For what it’s worth, Perfect Drift will get my money.

Good luck!

DITS & DOTS . . . How does Kentucky Derby track announcer Mike Battaglia spend the Monday before the Kentucky Derby? I called to get his numbers. He’s been providing them to GamingToday readers for a lot of years. "He’s out in the yard cutting grass," explained his lovely wife, Chris. I guess it makes sense. Mike and his family live in Northern Kentucky, except when Churchill’s running. Then he moves into quarters near the track and comes home on dark days only . . . Stay with Mike another sec. The really nice guy and very professional race announcer has just inked a three-year agreement with NBC. Although he’s been with them for 10 years, this is his first contract. Congrats! . . . Although I’ve never met him, people who have say that Stephen Triffitt, a Brit who plays Ol’ Blue Eyes, is a dead ringer for Cheech. At any rate, he will star in a new musical in Las Vegas that will depict the life of Sinatra. We broke this story several weeks ago. Now it’s all the buzz on the wires. But, then again, how would I ever let anybody beat me to a Sinatra story in my back yard? . . . "Soprano" lovers (Is there anyone who isn’t?) will be interested to learn that Jamie-Lynn Sigler, who plays James Gandolfini’s daughter, Meadow Soprano, and her manager, A.J. Discala, are an item. A.J. had better step lightly or run the risk of having Tony Soprano on his tail.