'Perfect' lives up to billing, wins Congressional; Gelding defeats 'Montana' for fourth straight victory; Horse Racing


Trainer Linda Albert looked around the paddock at Laurel Park yesterday as her horse, Perfect to a Tee, was being saddled for the $100,000 Congressional Handicap.

"I hope it's a repeat of the Maryland Million, but he's already won three straight," she said. "It's going to be difficult to keep it going. We're carrying some weight [a race-high 122 pounds] and all these other horses are carrying less."

Beside her, jockey Alcibiades Cortez showed a large smile.

"So," he said. "We will just go out and get No. 4."

That they did, but for a long time in this mile-and-a-quarter stakes race for 3-year-olds and up, it looked like Montana Dreamin' would make its own reverie a reality. Then, along about the mile mark, Perfect to a Tee closed to within 1 1/2 lengths, and by the time they reached the midpoint of the front stretch, Albert's horse eased his nose into the lead.

It was then that Albert had her one bad moment as "Perfect" drifted wide. But Cortez took a firmer grip with his right hand and the horse dug in gamely for the victory. Montana Dreamin' finished second, followed by Testafly, 2 1/4 lengths back.

"It was just another easy race," Cortez said. "He drifted only because of the sun. He just went blind for a little while.

"He broke every sharp, and then I just sat on the rail and saved ground. At the 3/8th pole I asked him to run, and he just ran by the other horse. Then the sun got in his eyes and he started looking around. He did the same thing on Maryland Million Day. Maybe next time we'll get him some sunglasses."

This was the fourth straight win and third stakes victory for the 7-year-old gelding. In his previous appearance here, Perfect to a Tee won the $200,000 Maryland Million Classic.

Perfect to a Tee had won $16,000 in his career when he was claimed as a 3-year-old by Nonsequitur Stable in 1995. With yesterday's $60,000 winnings, he has now earned $515,224.

"He was a nice horse when they claimed him, and I thought he'd be OK," Albert said. "But he's gotten better as he's gotten older. It isn't anything I've done. He's simply matured. He's changed, I haven't changed the way I train him."

But Albert credits the horse's owners for keeping faith with him.

"I told them he should be a claiming house," Albert said. "But they let him go along and do his own thing. Now, he'll never run in a claiming race again."

That, Albert said, has been the case since he won the William Donald Schaefer Handicap on Preakness Day. It has simply been reconfirmed with the Maryland Million victory and this one yesterday.

Hollywood Park: Brave Act rallied from last place in a field of 11 to win the $500,000 Citation Handicap by a neck over Native Desert.

A little over a length separated the first five finishers in the 1 1/16 mile race on the turf for 3-year-olds and up.

Ridden by Alex Solis and carrying 119 pounds, Brave Act was clocked in 1: 39 3/5 and paid $14.80, $7.60 and $4.40.

The win was the 11th in 25 lifetime starts for Brave Act and was worth $300,000, raising the career earnings of the 5-year-old British-bred son of Persian Bold to $1,087,470.

Brave Act ended a four-race losing streak after winning five of his previous seven starts.

Solis was riding Brave Act for the first time.

Native Desert, an 18-1 long shot, crossed the finish line a half-length in front of Bouccaneer and returned $15.60 and $6.20.

Bouccaneer was a head in front of favored Hawksley Hill at the wire and paid $4 to show.

Later in the day, 3-2 favorite Jokerman overtook Purely Cozzene in the final strides to win the $200,000 Generous Stakes for 2-year-olds by a head.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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