For the Love of Horses

The Story of Perfect Drift

By the Greater Kansas Racing Alliance 

Perfect Drift & jockey Mark Guidry, taken by, Matt Brockmeyer, in the saddling area prior to the 2006 Pacific Classic Stakes at Del Mar Racetrack. (CC BY-SA 2.5)

In 2002, Perfect Drift ran third in the Kentucky Derby. It was an amazing experience for his owner, Dr. William Reed, especially given that the likelihood of having a horse good enough to be in the derby is, as Dr. Reed puts it, “infinitesimally small.” Especially in an operation like Stonecrest Farm, with modest investments unheard of today. Each year, there are 30,000 racing thoroughbreds that are born, but only twenty are admitted into the Kentucky Derby.

Perfect Drift’s story starts in the 1990s, when Reed started his racing operation. As Reed recounts the story, you can’t help but hear the deep love, admiration, and respect he has for Perfect Drift and his horses. “Horse racing is more about the love of the horses than winning and the money. It’s how you feel about horses and taking care of them,” Reed says. “They aren’t out there competing because they want to be, they are out there because you put them out there. But they love competing!”

In 1999, Perfect Drift was sired by Dynaformer, out of the Reed’s mare Nice Gal. The investment was pretty small on Reed’s part. They paid $17,500 for Nice Gal and paid a stud fee of $12,500. Today, to have a mare bred to a leading stallion costs $300,000. After Perfect Drift qualified for the derby, Dynaformer’s stud fee doubled to $25,000. Dynaformer also sired Barbaro who won the Kentucky Derby in 2006. As you can imagine, Dynaformer’s stud fees increased further to $150,000.

Drift qualified for the Kentucky Derby at Turfway Park, where he won his first race (it was there that Reed had an opportunity to sell Perfect Drift, but of course, he didn’t). At the time, there were qualifying races to get a spot at the Kentucky Derby.

Today, specific races are allotted points and horses receive points for winning. Horses that accumulate the most points get a spot at the Kentucky Derby.  The jockey that rode Drift at Turfway was a friend of their trainer (Murray Johnson), hall-of-famer, Eddie Delahoussaye who won the Kentucky Derby two consecutive times. At Turfway, they wanted to see if Drift was good enough to compete in the Kentucky Derby. They wouldn’t have run in the derby if they didn’t believe there was a strong chance of him winning.

After the grand wind at Turfway, Delahoussaye told Reed, “Wherever you go, I want to be on him.”

Delahoussaye rode Drift at the Derby and the Belmont Stakes (they didn’t participate in the Preakness because it was too soon after the Derby to allow for Drift to run back). At Belmont, Delahoussaye didn’t think Drift was traveling comfortably down the stretch. Reed recounts the story, “great riders takes care of the horse. Their lives are at stake, too. He just let him gallop around. It turned out that Drift didn’t have a significant injury, but had a little soreness between the knee and the hip. Drift was fine, but Eddie took care of him.”

Reed describes Drift as “a picture of a big, strong, fearless, derby horse. [He was] big enough and strong enough that other horses would bounce off of him.”

Drift loved to be third, fourth, or fifth in a race or three to four lengths off the led. At the turn and the top of the stretch was where it all came together for Drift.

Perfect Drift is the only horse in history that ran in the Breeder’s Cup five times. He was invited to compete all over the world.

At age nine, Drift retired having won just short of $5 million. They retired Drift at the Kentucky Derby museum.

Drift also went on to become a lead pony. In fact, Drift took California Chrome out to the tracks at the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Reed tells people Drift’s conversation with Chrome that day started something like this . . . “Listen to me youngster, I was in it and didn’t win, but this is what you should do . . .”

California Chrome went on to be one of the largest money winners in history.

Drift is now at home on their farm. Reed’s wife likes to say she used to be known as Dr. Reed’s wife, but now she’s known as Perfect Drift’s mother—and that’s a great deal!

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