Drefong dazzles in King’s Bishop

Profile Picture: James Scully

August 27th, 2016

Drefong sped to the lead at the break and dominated Saturday’s $500,000 King’s Bishop (G1) at Saratoga, establishing himself as a serious Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) prospect for Bob Baffert in his stakes debut. A winner of four straight from five career starts, the 3-year-old colt completed 7-furlongs in 1:21.75 with regular rider Mike Smith.

A $450,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase for owner Charles Chu, Drefong broke from the far outside post as the 3-1 favorite among 12 rivals and led by about a length through opening splits in :23.11 and :45.85. Smith gave the bay his cue turning for home and Drefong surged clear into the stretch, scoring by a convincing 3 ¼-length margin.

Economic Model rallied belatedly for second at 7-1 odds, a half-length better than 25-1 Noholdingback Bear in third. It was a neck back to Summer Revolution, who edged Mind Your Biscuits by a nose for fourth. Fish Trappe Road, Tale of S’avall, Bird Song, Tom’s Ready, Rated R Superstar, 7-2 second choice Mohaymen and Star Hill completed the order.

From the first crop of three-time Grade 1 winner and $6.1-million earner Gio Ponti, Drefong was bred in Kentucky by Allor, Barnett and Warrender. He and initially sold for $200,000 as a weanling before being pinhooked and is the first stakes winner from the unraced Ghostzapper mare Eltimaas, a half-sister to 2003 champion 2-year-old male Action This Day.

Drefong finished fifth as the favorite when making his debut at Santa Anita in late October and followed with a 9 ½-furlong maiden special weight romp at Del Mar in his juvenile finale. He made a belated sophomore reappearance on May 30, scoring easily over older horses in a 6-furlong entry-level allowance at Santa Anita and came back five weeks late to conditioned foes by a 5 ¼-length margin, registering outstanding BRIS Speed ratings of 102 and 103, respectively.

With Saturday’s $275,000, he’s now earned $378,040.

Baffert already has Bing Crosby (G1) and Triple Bend (G1) hero Lord Nelson readying for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on November 5 and Drefong appears poised to provide a formidable 1-2 punch for the Hall of Fame conditioner.

King's Bishop Quotes:

Bob Baffert, winning trainer of Drefong (No. 13): "The horse has always been incredibly fast. We freshened him up and this was the race we were looking forward to, so I was happy when I saw the post. He's a quiet horse, he's a beautiful horse. When he left there and I saw the first quarter in 23 [seconds], I thought that was a good pace. It wasn't too taxing on him. I'm proud of him, he ran so well. And the Chu family, they just got in the game a few years ago, they've been extremely lucky with their horses, so this was a big win for them. Good for them, I'm here just to fulfill their dreams.

"If you watch his last couple of races, they were pretty incredible at Santa Anita, pretty fast. He'd been working really well. He's been working with American Freedom and they went heads-up, just cruising together, so that's a good sign for American Freedom. One thing about Del Mar, I know that we can train from there and ship here and do well, but you need a good horse.

"He's fast, he looks the part. He's got a great mind. I've always thought he was cut out to be this kind of horse, but he had to prove it today. That was a tough little bunch he was in there with. If you can do it on a day like the Travers, that's even more important. We're trying to win these big races. I'm trying to get him to the Breeders' Cup Sprint and I didn't want to run him in the Bing Crosby, I had the other horse in there, this was the last chance [to run against] 3-year-olds. Unfortunately, Jazzy Times came up with a bruised foot today, he'll be all right in a couple of days but that was unfortunate. I thought he'd run well too."

Mike Smith, winning jockey aboard Drefong (No. 13): "He's fast. He's a good horse. My main concern was the surface switch -- when you come from tighter surfaces to here, where it is a bit more sandy. But he is so strong, and pushes so hard. He gets a hold of it at Santa Anita, but I didn't know about [here]. He might have got hold of it better. I didn't even hit him. I just rode him with my hands, with my whip down. He ran big today."

Irad Ortiz, Jr., jockey aboard runner-up Economic Model (No. 1): "He's a nice horse. He looked good and he responded going home. It was a good race. The 13 [Drefong] is good and we hoped someone would go with him. They let him go and we paid the price."

Kiaran McLaughlin, trainer of 11th-place finisher Mohaymen (No. 6): "Well, it's disappointing because we thought we pointed him to the right spot here. He was one of the favorites, and Junior [Alvarado] said he took him to the three-eighths pole and he just didn't kick on. We'll send him home probably and go over him really well and find out what's up. He's too nice of a horse to give up on."

Photo courtesy of Adam Coglianese Photography