Short on experience, long on talent: Drefong a big player in BC Sprint

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

October 28th, 2016

This is the third in a series profiling the top contenders for the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Sprint. A profile of Lord Nelson can be found here, and A. P. Indian here.

The least experienced member of this year's Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) field might turn out to be the best of them all. The Bob Baffert-trained Drefong, one of three sophomores among the nine pre-entries, has raced just five times, but has packed a big punch in a brief career.

A slow start compromised his chances on debut last October 24 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the Santa Anita strip, but Drefong improved greatly on that fifth-place effort three weeks later at Del Mar, when he drew off to win by 9 1/2 lengths under a hand ride.

Not seen again until the Santa Anita summer meet, Drefong made short work in two allowances, both open to older horses. In his May 30 comeback at six furlongs, Drefong dueled for the lead before drawing off late to win by 3 1/2 lengths. On July 4, he rated in second through the opening quarter, seized command around the far turn and won convincingly by 5 1/4 lengths.

Sent across the country to Saratoga for his stakes debut in the August 27 King's Bishop (G1), Drefong was saddled with post 12 in the seven-furlong heat, but that proved no hurdle as he jumped out to an early one-length advantage through a moderate opening quarter of :23.11. Though he came under slight pressure around the turn, the bay shook it off and won handsomely by 3 1/4 lengths as the 3-1 favorite.

Like stablemate Arrogate, a prime contender in the Classic (G1), Drefong hopes to claim both a Breeders' Cup race and a divisional championship having not run since Travers Day 10 weeks ago. However, layoffs of that duration or longer have not stopped other past Sprint winners. Precisionist famously won the second running of the Sprint in 1985 off a layoff of nearly 19 weeks. Two years later, Very Subtle won off a 12-week spell.

The Baffert-trained Midnight Lute defended his Sprint title in 2008 off a single prep nine weeks before the race. Secret Circle also scored for Baffert, in 2013, off a single prep. Though that allowance score was less than three weeks before the Sprint, it had been 19 months since his previous race. In other words, fresher can definitely be good going into the Sprint.

Drefong, along with Masochistic and Delta Bluesman, appear to be the primary speeds in this renewal. A prolonged duel among two or all three is unlikely to help any of them, but strange things can happen, such as a missed break or something else unforeseen. If Drefong somehow finds himself loose on the lead, watch out.

Drefong is one of only three stakes winners sired thus far by two-time grass champion Gio Ponti, who notably placed behind Zenyatta in the 2009 Classic on Santa Anita's former synthetic track. He is out of Eltimaas, an unraced Ghostzapper (2004 Classic winner) half-sister to Action This Day, who won the 2003 Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita.

(Adam Coglianese Photography)