DEL MAR, CA – In a race as entertaining as its namesake, Agave Racing Stable and Jeff Wilke’s Ransom the Moon won a wild edition of the Grade 1, $300,000 Bing Crosby on Saturday.
The theatrics began as the field was loading into the starting gate. Magic Taste forced his way through his front gate, injuring jockey Tiago Pereira’s leg in the process. The gate crewman managed to hold on tightly to Magic Taste, not allowing him to get more than a length away before stopping him. Pereira appeared to limp as he walked back to the starting gate but managed to re-board his steed.
Once the field was finally settled, the gates burst open, and the defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Drefong exited nicely. Off at 9/5, that move from the gate was unfortunately the last nice thing that he would do in the race. As the field exited the chute and began to pass the unused first turn, Drefong suddenly shot left hard. Jockey Mike Smith did everything in his power to redirect the 4-year-old colt, but to no avail, as Drefong shot the gap and bucked off the Hall of Famer.
“I’m fine, it’s just too bad it happened,” Smith said. “The horse just outside me (St. Joe Bay) just brushed me a little bit and sent him (Drefong) left toward the gap. Then he just ducked for it (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.”
Drefong’s antics weren’t over there, though. He managed to regroup and kept running along the rail, eventually skimming along until he reached the leader, St. Joe Bay, while along the inside of Roy H and Moe Candy and just ahead of Ransom the Moon. The field moved well enough down the backstretch, with St. Joe Bay posting early fractions of :22.19 and :45.52.
Through the far turn, however, Drefong showed that he had one final disruption left in him. While Roy H and Moe Candy passed St. Joe Bay to the outside, Drefong made a surge up the rail. Once clear of St. Joe Bay, Drefong drifted very wide, forcing Roy H and Moe Candy to check up while swinging into the 7- and 8-path range.
“My horse was running really well, and then the loose horse changed everything,” said Roy H’s jockey Paco Lopez. “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. Horse racing. What can you do?”
Jockey Flavien Prat, already running in a perfect stalking position aboard Ransom the Moon into the turn, suddenly saw the entire track open up in front of him. Prat pounced and drove Ransom the Moon hard down the stretch. Roy H managed to recover and fought back gamely (with Drefong still to his inside). The pair began to close on Ransom the Moon but ran out of time. Ransom the Moon crossed the line in first, 1 1/2 lengths ahead of Roy H.
“On the backside, I was concerned; I thought (Drefong) was going to cause me problems,” said Prat after winning his third straight Bing Crosby. “But I stayed behind him, and then on the turn, he went outside and took the leader out with him. I got to go inside, and it worked out perfectly. My horse is a really nice horse and I think 6 furlongs is his best distance. I got lucky today. Sometimes, racing is like that.”
Moe Candy was another 1 1/2 lengths back in third. Kobe’s Back, Solid Wager, Denman’s Call, Magic Taste, and St. Joe Bay completed the order of finish. Big Macher and Coastline were scratched.
Ransom the Moon raced his first three years at Woodbine for his breeder, Sam-Son Farm. After ending 2016 in Canada, the 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon was privately purchased and relocated to trainer Phil D’Amato’s southern California barn. Winning his April 30 debut in an optional claimer at Santa Anita, Ransom the Moon won the Grade 2 Kona Gold Stakes and followed that with a well-fought second in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes. The $180,000 winner’s share increased his career earnings to $520,829.
“Flavien did a great job feeling out the dynamics of the race, and hat’s off to Peter Miller’s horse (Roy H) who ran a really good race,” said D’Amato. “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. We had to kind of sit behind Drefong, and we were in the right spot at the top of the lane when he kind of drifted out. 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. We’ll probably prep him on the dirt at Santa Anita and then come back here for the Breeders’ Cup.”
The Bing Crosby is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Ransom the Moon receiving an automatic berth in the $1.5 million Twin Spires Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar on Saturday, November 4.
Ransom the Moon returned $10.80 to win, $4.20 to place, and $3.60 to show. Roy H brought back $3.20 to place and $2.80 to show, while Moe Candy paid $5.60 to show.