08/26/2017 5:40PM

Drefong shows who's in charge with Forego victory

Debra A. Roma
Drefong paid $4.30 in winning the Forego at Saratoga on Saturday.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. - Drefong left little doubt he’s still the top dog in the sprint division with a decisive four-length victory over Awesome Slew Saturday at Saratoga in the Grade 1, $600,000 Forego.

The Forego was only Drefong’s second start since clinching the 2016 Eclipse Award with his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and first since ducking into the gap and losing jockey Mike Smith shortly after the start of the Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar just four weeks earlier.

With Smith aboard, Drefong broke alertly and as expected quickly sprinted clear of his nine rivals, which included Mind Your Biscuits, who in the opinion of many experts, had moved ahead of the defending champ atop the division with his victories earlier this year in the Dubai Golden Shaheen and Belmont Sprint.    

Drefong showed the way through a 22.89 opening quarter and 45.58 half-mile while pressed by Tale of S’avall, readily kicked away from that rival when roused by Smith in early stretch, then steadily increased his advantage before being geared-down nearing the wire.  Drefong’s final time of 1:21.12 over a fast but certainly not lightning strip was just .72 seconds off the course record set by Darby Creek Road 39 years ago.

Awesome Slew raced near the rear of the field for more than a half-mile before rallying steadily along the inside to be second-best, 1 1/2 lengths behind the wide-running Tom’s Ready, who rallied from last to finish third.

Mind Your Biscuits raced within easy striking distance of the winner while between horses, but was done after five furlongs, ultimately finishing a disappointing sixth as the 5-2 second choice.

Drefong, a 4-year-old son of Gio Ponti, is owned by the Baoma Corportation. He paid $4.30.      

“That was pretty good, huh?,” said trainer Bob Baffert, who was not in attendance, by phone after the race. “Everybody was making such a big deal about him ducking in the gap last time.  What really happened is that he was bumped and pushed in. It was just very odd and something that will never happen again. But I guess it worked out for the best, because I would have never run him in the Forego if that hadn’t happened.”

Baffert said he knew going into the race that Drefong, who won the Grade 1 King’s Bishop in similar fashion here a year ago, had a pace advantage in the Forego.

“It’s not just the pace advantage with him, he’s just a fast horse,” Baffert said. “He’s a brilliant speed horse and he showed his stuff today, although I think he can also go a mile. In fact, it might make it even easier for him the farther he goes.”

Baffert said he could bring Drefong back in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship or just wait, as he did last year following his victory here in the King’s Bishop, for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Summers said jockey Joel Rosario felt Mind Your Biscuits, who had not worked as brilliantly as usual in the weeks leading up to the Forego, did not get a hold of the track.

“Joel said he was just flat, that he thought he was in good position and just never fired,” Summers said. “He’s never been himself here, but I thought he’d trained well the last two weeks.  But he ran exactly how he had worked two weeks ago.”