April 22, 2024

Drefong looms large in TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint title defense

Drefong was all alone at the wire of the 2016 Sprint (Benoit Photos)

Reigning champion sprinter Drefong will attempt to join Midnight Lute (2008-09) as the only two-time winner of the $2 million TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) when he lines up against nine challengers at Del Mar. A smashing four-length winner of the August 26 Forego (G1) in his last appearance, the 4-year-old colt has won six straight starts in which he’s managed to keep the jockey aboard.

Trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who also conditioned Midnight Lute and Sprint winners Secret Circle (2013) and Thirty Slews (1992), Drefong dislodged rider Mike Smith when veering in shortly after the start of his 2017 bow, the July 29 Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar. The son of Gio Ponti has registered outstanding BRIS Speed ratings of 105-109-105 in his last three wins, including a 1 ¼-length tally in the 2016 Sprint at Santa Anita, but the 5-2 morning line favorite did not receive a favorable draw in post 2.

“I wanted to be outside with him because he had that bad experience earlier in the summer in the one-hole (dropping Smith in the Bing Crosby),” Baffert said. “Since then they’ve put a strip there (to keep horses from seeing the far turn gap). He has to break really well. Going short at Del Mar, having an outside post is a big advantage. Some tracks it’s not, but at Del Mar it’s a big advantage. But he had the 2-hole (in last year’s Sprint) and I was fretting about that until he won the race.”

Roy H is the 7-2 second favorite following a one-length tally in the October 7 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) that netted a 109 BRIS Speed rating and the in-form gelding also posted a 111 taking the True North (G2) three back. His only setback in the last five starts was a troubled second in the Bing Crosby in which he was interfered repeatedly by a loose Drefong. Kent Desormeaux guides the Peter Miller trainee.

Imperial Hint, who counts facile triumphs in the Smile Sprint (G3) and General George (G3) among his present five-race win streak, will step up to face big-name rivals for the first time in career-best form for Luis Carvajal Jr., with the Parx-based colt garnering a 111 BRIS Speed rating for a 6 ¾-length victory in the September 4 Donald LeVine Memorial last out. Javier Castellano will be up on the early 9-2 third choice.

Vosburgh (G1) winner Takaful will enter on the upswing for Kiaran McLaughlin, netting a career-best 106 BRIS Speed last time, and Mind Your Biscuits displayed excellent class posting victories in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) and Belmont Sprint Championship (G2) earlier this season.

Other runners include Whitmore, who rebounded after dropping two straight with a game win in the October 6 Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland; Bing Crosby victor Ransom the Moon, fourth most recently in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship; and American Pastime, an interesting dark horse who overcame bad start to record a fast-closing second in the Gallant Bob (G3) last out.