OLDSMAR — The past 96 days have been perfect for Perf. Three starts, three wins, a turnabout from a not-so-perfect beginning.
A loser in her first nine races, Perf has put it together for Ocala breeder and former Clearwater resident Harold Queen. She goes for her third career stakes victory in the $65,000 Manatee today at Tampa Bay Downs.
"She's a filly with a lot of ability," trainer Gerald Bennett said. "The farther she goes, the better she is. She's learned to relax and (is) learning the game better."
Perf, a 4-year-old Florida homebred by Burning Roma, faces defending champion Rising Fever and 12 other rivals in Race 9 (3:58 p.m.), a 7-furlong sprint for older fillies and mares. She drew the No. 4 post with jockey Luis Gonzalez.
Perf is unbeaten in two starts at the Downs meet, the latest being the 6-furlong $65,000 Minaret on Jan. 2. Her winning streak began in West Virginia, where she captured the 1 1/16th-mile $75,000 Autumn Leaves at Mountaineer on Oct. 20 in Chester.
Perf is the first stakes winner sired by Burning Roma, a former Queen runner and the last horse to win both Oldsmar signature races, the Tampa Bay Derby and the Sam F. Davis (2001). Now standing at Rising Hill Farm in Ocala, Burning Roma was a Grade I winner and a 12-time stakes champion who earned more than $1.5 million.
"Compared to what Burning Roma used to be like — he was kind of high-strung — (Perf) doesn't care about anything," said Bennett, 65, who earned his 3,000th career win in August. "That's good in a racehorse."
Perf was nominated for today's $300,000 Sunshine Millions Distaff at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. "She's had some stomach ulcer problems, and we've been working on getting that cleared up," Bennett said.
Perf was initially trained by David Fawkes, who worked her mainly on turf in South Florida. She joined Bennett after several starts. "I told Harold after I first had her (in 2009), 'We'll win a stakes with her before the end of the year,' " Bennett said.
Perf has finished in the money (top three) in 15 of 17 races, winning five times with purse earnings of $189,328. She broke her maiden last summer at Presque Isle Downs in Erie, Pa., where she won twice in six tries on the Tapeta synthetic racing surface.
Best at running from off the pace, Perf comes off a bullet workout of 47.4 seconds at 4 furlongs Jan. 16. "She's big — close to 17 hands — and one of our best fillies," Bennett said.
More Downs: Trainer Christophe Clement told the Daily Racing Form that Eclipse Award-winning Gio Ponti is expected to prep for the Dubai World Cup by racing in the $150,000 Tampa Bay Breeders' Cup on Feb. 20.
Greyhounds: Lamorge Streaker of Alderson Kennel earned her 71st career win Wednesday at Derby Lane in St. Petersburg. It was her first start in two months.