Breeders' Cup - At The Races

DREFONG

Drefong
  • Trainer: Bob Baffert
  • Likely Jockey: Mike Smith
  • Owner: Baoma Corporation
  • Age & Breeding: 4-year-old colt; Gio Ponti – Eltimaas
  • Season Form Figures: U1
  • Career Highlight: Victory in the 2016 Breeders' Cup Sprint, his fifth win on the spin.

Six months ago, it was nearly inconceivable that Bob Baffert and Mike Smith's best chance at the 2017 Breeders' Cup would be any horse but Arrogate. But with less than a month to go, that is now emphatically the case.

Two defeats for the world's best racehorse – on the same Del Mar surface where the Breeders’ Cup Classic will be contested no less - have punctured the air of invincibility that once surrounded Arrogate, and, in the meantime, defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion Drefong has cemented his position as the top speed horse in North America.

Beaten on his debut when fancied, Drefong subsequently reeled off five straight victories, culminating in a Grade 1 double, taking both the King's Bishop stakes (since re-christened at the H. Allen Jerkens) at Saratoga and last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita.

In many ways, Drefong is almost the complete sprinter. The son of Gio Ponti is not bred to excel over this short, but nonetheless has the pace to employ a gate-to-wire style, rarely seeing an opponent, and the abundant stamina in his pedigree means that he is able to maintain this gallop, often extending his lead late against weary, broken foes.

Drefong's latest tour de force came in the Grade 1 Forego at Saratoga. Having unseated his rider at the start in the Bing Crosby on his only other start this year, this was a de facto seasonal debut, but any concerns about rustiness and a wide post were dismissed within a furlong, as Drefong showed his trademark early dash. Extending at the top of the lane, he was soon clear and Smith was able to gear him down for the final furlong, although he recorded an excellent speed figure despite this.

Drefong is likely to face more than the six rivals that opposed him in last year's Sprint, and there is the potential for plenty of pace pressure. However, he is well suited to setting a strong gallop – and did so last year, the first quarter run in twenty-one-and-change – and anything trying to go with him early is unlikely to be able to match him late.

In other words, Drefong looks every inch a true champion and among the most likely winners on the card.