The incident began as the horses crossed over to the main track from the chute in the six-furlong sprint. Drefong ducked in harshly at the gap, where the clubhouse turn transitions into the backstretch, and unseated Smith.
Without his rider, Drefong raced inside and near the leaders as St. Joe Bay ran the first quarter-mile in: 22.19 on the front.
The riderless two-time grade 1 winner moved to the front of the pack, however, in the turn, inside of 8-5 favorite Roy H and longshot Moe Candy. Roy H technically had a head in front of the eligible horses through a half-mile in :45.52, but with his inside position and without a rider in control, Drefong floated Roy H and Moe Candy out six paths late in the turn and opened up a massive inside lane for Ransom the Moon.
Ransom the Moon took every advantage of the saved ground, while his main rivals were drifted out, and surged to the wire to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Roy H came in a tough-luck second, 1 1/2 lengths clear of Moe Candy.
The Phil D'Amato-trained Ransom the Moon, owned by Agave Racing Stable and Jeffry Wilke, finished off the six furlongs in 1:09.63 under jockey Flavien Prat.
"On the backside I was concerned (about the loose horse)," Prat said. "I thought he was going to cause me problems, but I stayed behind him and then, on the turn, he went outside and took (Roy H) out with him. I got to go inside and it worked 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."
Smith cleared first aid after the spill.
"I'm fine. It's just too bad it happened," Smith said. "(St. Joe Bay) just brushed me a little bit and sent (Drefong) left, toward the gap. Then he just 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."
Roy H's jockey, Paco Lopez, also acknowledged the double-edged sword of racing luck after his second-place finish aboard the last-out True North Stakes (G2) winner.
"My horse was running really well and then the loose horse changed everything," Lopez said. "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. (It's) horse racing. What can you do?"
Ransom the Moon, a 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon , won the Kona Gold Stakes (G2) at 6 1/2 furlongs in his second start for D'Amato (he was previously with trainer Malcolm Pierce at Woodbine), and came in second behind Danzing Candy last time out in the July 1 San Carlos Stakes (G2) at seven furlongs.
His first grade 1 win may have a slight asterisk, but D'Amato ultimately credited his rider for navigating a race with the inherent unpredictability of a loose horse.
"Flavien 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," D'Amato said. "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."
Ransom the Moon, bred in Ontario by Sam-Son Farm out of the Red Ransom mare Count to Three, now has a 5-6-1 record from 19 starts, but is 3-1-0 in five starts on dirt, with four of those starts for D'Amato. He now has $520,829 in earnings and an automatic berth into the TwinSpires Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) through the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series.
"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," D'Amato said. "We'll probably prep him on the dirt at Santa Anita and then come back here for the Breeders' Cup."
Ransom the Moon returned $10.80, $4.20, and $3.60 across the board.