08/27/2016 4:49PM

Drefong makes cross-country trip pay off in King's Bishop

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mike Smith guides Drefong to a 3 1/4-length victory in the King's Bishop on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Drefong turned what appeared to be a wide-open King’s Bishop into a showcase for his abundant speed, leading his 11 rivals on a merry chase en route to a 3 1/4-length victory over Economic Model in the Grade 1 dash for 3-year-olds Saturday at Saratoga.  

Drefong, a son of Gio Ponti trained by Bob Baffert for Charles Chu, had won his last three starts by a combined 18 1/4 lengths but was making his stakes debut in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop. He was also venturing out of California for the first time, while racing over a surface that has not always been kind to West Coast shippers.

Drefong, the 3-1 favorite, broke well from his outside post and quickly established a clear lead, with jockey Mike Smith able to slow him down to a 23.11-second opening quarter-mile. Drefong disposed of the pace-pressing Noholdingback Bear in early stretch and was never threatened thereafter, increasing his advantage under steady urging to the wire.

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Economic Model, off a step slowly breaking from the rail, established good early position near the inside, angled four wide at the top of the stretch, and rallied to be second, a half-length in front of the tiring Noholdingback Bear in third. Mohaymen, the favorite for much of the wagering, was never a serious factor while beating only Star Hill, who was vanned off after the race.

Drefong, who earned an automatic berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint by virtue of his victory in the King's Bishop, a Win and You're In race, completed the distance in 1:21.25 and paid $8.80.

“This horse has always been incredibly fast,” said Baffert. “We freshened him up, and this is the race we were looking forward to because we’re trying to get him to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.”      

Baffert, who had to scratch his other entrant in the King’s Bishop, Jazzy Times, due to a bruised foot, said he was delighted when Drefong drew the outside post.

“We finally drew a decent post here,” said Baffert. “And I was happy when I saw that first quarter in 23. It was a good pace; it wasn’t too taxing on him.”

Baffert said he was a little concerned with how Drefong might handle the racetrack after winning his last two starts at Santa Anita and training up to the race over the firmer surface at Del Mar.

“Mike rode the track earlier and said it was a little dry, a little loose for our horses, who are used to feeling their feet rattle,” said Baffert. “He wasn’t accustomed to a track like this. But the really good ones, they handle anything. He looks the part. He’s got a great mind. I always thought he was cut out to be this kind of horse, but he had to prove it today.”