Jeffry Wilke and Agave Racing Stable's Ransom The Moon was able to avoid the loose horse and subsequent trouble to win Saturday's G1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar by 1 1/2 lengths, earning an expenses-paid berth to the Breeders' Cup Sprint over the same course in November. Race favorite Drefong shied toward the gap leaving the six-furlong chute, dropping rider Mike Smith and rushing up through the field riderless to cause traffic problems for a number of contenders. Flavien Prat and Ransom the Moon, a 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon trained by Phil D'Amato, avoided the trouble, winning in a final time of 1:09.63 for six furlongs over the fast main track.
Smith appeared to land and roll, standing up almost immediately after he hit the ground. He was examined at the first aid station and cleared to ride on Sunday.
All nine starters broke fairly evenly, but when the temporary rail ended, leaving a gap between it and the space where the field would join up with the main track, favored Drefong attempted to take a sharp left-hand turn back toward the stable area. Just as Smith was pulling on his right rein to straighten the horse, Drefong slid out from under him to take off riderless. He immediately rushed up to join the rest of the field, bulling his way through the middle of the pack to just behind the leaders.
“I'm fine,” Smith told Del Mar publicity. “It's just too bad it happened. The horse just outside of me (St. Joe Bay) brushed me a little bit and Drefong ducked for the gap and I came off. If I don't get brushed, I think I go right through there and I'm going to be fine. But they tell me the horse is OK, and I'm OK. It's just one of those things.”
On the front end, St. Joe Bay had a slight lead over Roy H and Moe Candy while Ransom the Moon was at the rail in fourth position. Drefong was ahead of Ransom the Moon in what would have been the third position, tracking the first quarter mile of 22.19 seconds.
In the far turn, the loose Drefong darted to the inside to challenge the frontrunning St. Joe Bay, then drifted out to impede that horse's path just as he began to drop back, forcing St. Joe Bay's jockey to check sharply. Along the outside of that leader were both Roy H and Moe Candy, trying to make their runs for the lead, but Drefong continued to bear out and carried the pair to nearly the six-path coming off the turn.
“My horse was running really well and then the loose horse changed everything,” said Roy H's jockey Paco Lopez. “I was trying to work around him, but we just kept getting pushed out. I don't know if I would have won if it hadn't happened, but I think I surely could have. Horse racing. What can you do?”
A patient, well-spotted Prat had waited to see what the loose horse would do on the turn, and was able to duck to his inside to take the advantage. Ransom the Moon grabbed the lead at the head of the lane, and got away to a two-length head start in the stretch.
Eventually the loose Drefong straightened out and Roy H and Moe Candy were able to find their best strides, trying to run down the leader. Roy H was able to cut Ransom the Moon's lead to 1 1/2 lengths before the wire crossed overhead and he had to settle for second. Moe Candy checked in third, and Kobe's Back was a late-running fourth.
“On the backside I was concerned (about the loose horse, Drefong),” Prat admitted. “I thought he was going to cause me problems. But I stayed behind him and then on the turn, he went outside and took the leader (Roy H) out with him. I got to go inside and it worked out perfectly. My horse is a really nice horse and I think six furlongs is his best distance. I got lucky today. Sometimes racing is like that.”
Bred in Ontario by Sam-Son Farm, Ransom the Moon spent the majority of his career at Woodbine prior to 2017, accumulating several allowance victories for his breeder and trainer Malcolm Pierce. Transferred to D'Amato, the horse re-appeared in April of 2017 on the West Coast, winning an allowance and then the G2 Kona Gold Stakes in his first two starts. He was a close second to Danzing Candy in the G2 San Carlos before returning to the winner's circle in the Bing Crosby. Overall, Ransom the Moon has a record of five wins and six seconds from 19 starts, with earnings of over $500,000.
“Flavien (Prat) did a great job feeling out the dynamics of the race and hats off to Peter Miller's horse (Roy H.) who ran a really good race,” said D'Amato. “The weird thing is I ran a filly in the fourth race today (Table for Three) who did the same thing Drefong did, she tried to make the gap too. Luckily everyone is all right. We had to kind of sit behind Drefong and we were in the right spot at the top of the lane when he kind of drifted out. This horse is such a big, strong, good-looking Adonis of a horse and since trying him on the dirt he has been a totally different animal. We'll probably prep him on the dirt at Santa Anita and then come back here for the Breeders' Cup.”
Watch the race replay here:
Ransom the Moon survives an eventful trip to win the Gr I Bing Crosby Stakes pic.twitter.com/yzCARRKmGR
— Del Mar Racetrack (@DelMarRacing) July 30, 2017
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