Charles Chu's Drefong cleared the entire 12-horse group of sophomores at the start of the G1 King's Bishop, then found a soft opening quarter to his liking as he was able to power away down the stretch to an easy 3 1/4-length victory under veteran Mike Smith. The son of Gio Ponti galloped home in a final time of 1:21.25 for trainer Bob Baffert, recording his first graded stakes win in his fifth career start.
“The horse has always been incredibly fast,” Baffert said. “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.”
Drefong was extremely sharp out of the starting gates in his first east coast start, easily clearing the field from his outer-most post position in the first several jumps. Mohaymen, the post-time favorite, was quick off the blocks as well, but was not as sharply into stride as the rest of the field and would up in the center of the field early on. With a one-length lead, Drefong led Noholdingbackbear and Summer Revolution through a first quarter in a pedestrian :23.11, with Economic Model, Fish Trappe Road and Mind Your Biscuits not far behind. Mohaymen had a bit of traffic behind those, six lengths off the lead.
Approaching the first turn, Drefong had picked up the pace to cover the half-mile in :45.85, but Canadian shipper Noholdingbackbear was still tracking strongly just in behind him. Drefong allowed that rival to cut into his lead for the briefest of moments at the top of the lane, then changed leads smoothly for Smith and powered away with no issues to win by 3 1/4 lengths at the wire. Economic Model moved up the middle of the track to finish well in second, just defeating the game Noholdingbackbear by a half-length. Summer Revolution held on to be fourth.
“He's fast. He's a good horse,” Smith said. “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.”
Bred in Kentucky by Frederick M. Allor, Michael T. Barnett, and Anthony M. Warrender, Drefong was a $450,000 Keeneland September Yearling sale purchase by the Tanma Corporation. Having recorded three straight wins in allowance company on the west coast, Baffert stepped him up to graded company successfully this Saturday. Overall, Drefong boasts a record of four wins in five starts with earnings of $375,000.
“I've always thought he was cut out to be this kind of horse, but he had to prove it today,” Baffert continues. “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.”
Watch the race replay here:
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