07/29/2017 9:38PM

Ransom the Moon wins Bing Crosby – with a little help from riderless Drefong

Benoit & Associates
A riderless Drefong drifted out and interfered with two rivals in the stretch, helping Ransom the Moon (inside, white blinkers) prevail in Saturday's Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Ransom the Moon is a top sprinter in his own right. Give him the advantage of benefiting from the errant ways of Drefong, and he’s all the tougher.

In a race that changed dramatically soon after the start when Drefong – last year’s champion male sprinter – ducked in and dislodged jockey Mike Smith, Ransom the Moon cut the corner at the top of the stretch when Drefong drifted out and interfered with two rivals, helping Ransom the Moon prevail in the Grade 1, $301,380 Bing Crosby Stakes on Saturday at Del Mar.

Ransom the Moon won by 1 1/2 lengths over Roy H, with Moe Candy another 1 1/2 lengths back in third, the second- and third-place finishers both impacted at the quarter pole by Drefong, who drifted out and carried Roy H and Moe Candy past the middle of the track.

Kobe’s Back was fourth and was followed, in order, by Solid Wager, Denman’s Call, Magic Taste, and St. Joe Bay, with Drefong officially last in the field of nine.

:: Christmas in July! Take 20% off PPs, Clocker Reports, and more

Ransom the Moon completed six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:09.63.

Ransom the Moon ($10.80) earned a fees-paid berth through the “Win and You’re In” program to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint – the race Drefong won last year – but Drefong was as much a story this day as Ransom the Moon.

Drefong, making his first start since the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and favored at 8-5, broke sharply from post 2, but soon after the start – at the point where the clubhouse turn meets the backstretch – he veered sharply to his left toward the temporary rail, his move so sudden and unexpected Smith could not hold on.

Smith said Drefong overreacted when St. Joe Bay bumped into him from his outside. Smith was taken to first aid, was examined, and quickly released.

“I’m all right. Just my pride,” Smith replied when asked if he had hurt anything.

Drefong was corralled by an outrider and appeared none the worse for the experience. This was the second straight Saturday that Smith and trainer Bob Baffert had a crushing defeat, after Arrogate’s poor performance in the San Diego Handicap.

Ransom the Moon got a dream run under Flavien Prat.

“Down the backside it was a little scary because the favorite was on the rail and I was behind him. I thought he might drop himself,” Prat said. “But he got through, and I got really lucky at the quarter pole. The favorite sent everybody out.”

Ransom the Moon, 5, is a son of Malibu Moon who now owns three wins in four starts since Phil D’Amato took over as his trainer earlier this year. Ransom the Moon’s lone loss this year was in the Grade 2 San Carlos in his last start on July 1, in which he finished second.

“That was seven furlongs. I think that might be too far for him,” Prat said.

Fortunately for the Breeders’ Cup, the Sprint mirrors the Crosby, six furlongs at Del Mar, on Nov. 4.

Ransom the Moon has now won five times in 19 starts. He is owned by a partnership of Agave Racing Stable and Jeffry Wilke.

Victor Espinoza, who rode Moe Candy, said Drefong drifting to his right at the quarter pole cost him a better placing.

“I thought I had it, and then – oh no,” Espinoza said. “There’s nothing you can do. Just try to come back safe.”