Charles Chu's Drefong broke alertly from the outside in a field of 12, took the lead, and never faltered en route to victory in the $500,000 Ketel One King's Bishop (gr. I) Aug. 27 at Saratoga Race Course.
The Gio Ponti colt got away with an easy :23.11 opening quarter with a length advantage and had plenty left to give under Mike Smith once the field turned for home after a half in :45.85.
"I didn't even hit him. I just rode him with my hands, with my whip down," said Smith. "He ran big today."
Economic Model made a four-wide move through three-quarters in 1:09.09 to finish second, but he could not threaten the winner, who drove clear by 3 1/4 lengths. Drefong shipped from California for trainer Bob Baffert on a three-race win streak to ace his step up from July 4 allowance company at Santa Anita Park. The final time for seven furlongs was 1:21.25.
"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, 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."
Sent off as the 3-1 favorite, Drefong returned $8.80, $5.60, and $4.20. Economic Model paid $7.90 and $6, and Noholdingback Bear brought $9.30.
"He's got a great mind," Baffert said of Drefong. "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. ... I'm trying to get him to the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) and I didn't want to run him in the Bing Crosby (gr. I), I had the other horse in there (winner Lord Nelson ). This was the last chance (to run against straight) 3-year-olds."
Completing the order of finish were Summer Revolution, Mind Your Biscuits, Fish Trappe Road, Tale of S'avall, Bird Song, Tom's Ready, Rated R Superstar, Mohaymen, and Star Hill. Star Hill came back after the race and was unsaddled, but was uncomfortable and stopped walking, according to a New York Racing Association veterinarian. He was vanned off with some swelling in a leg to be examined back at the barn. Jazzy Times was scratched with a bruised foot.
Drefong was bred in Kentucky by Frederick M. Allor, Michael T. Barnett, and Anthony M. Warrender out of the Ghostzapper mare Eltimaas. He sold for $200,000 to Woods Edge Farm as a weanling consigned by Blackburn Farm to the Keeneland November 2013 breeding stock sale. Chu's Tanma Corp. acquired him for $450,000 from the Woods Edge consignment to the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Eltimaas, acquired by Machmer Hall for $77,000 from agent Blackburn Farm at the Keeneland November 2013 breeding stock sale, has a yearling filly by Animal Kingdom who will be offered as Hip 325 from the Select Sales consignment to the upcoming Keeneland September sale. The mare is in foal to Candy Ride for 2017.
Of Mohaymen, who bypassed the Travers (gr. I) to run in the King's Bishop under jockey Junior Alvarado, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "It's disappointing because we thought we pointed him to the right spot here. He was one of the favorites, and Junior 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."