Agave Racing Stable or Wilke’s Ransom the Moon on Saturday earned himself a spot in the gate for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) with a 1 ½-length victory under jockey Flavien Prat in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (GI) at Del Mar, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event.
Though the talented 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon is on the improve, having captured the Kona Gold Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita in May before posting a second in the San Carlos (GII) last month, he may have most benefitted from the fact that highly regarded defending Breeders’ Cup champ Drefong made a sharp left turn coming out of the chute, causing rider Mike Smith to bail off and eliminate one of the more serious contenders.
Whatever the reason, the Phil D’Amato trainee picked up the biggest victory of his career and a $180,000 paycheck under regular jockey Flavien Prat and brought his career earnings to $520,820 and his record now reads 19-5-6-1.
Likely because Drefong wasn’t part of the early speed scenario, the pace was contested in moderate splits of :22.19 and :45.52 by St. Joe Bay and Roy H, while the winner took advantage of the opening to the inside left by Drefong and chased the pace along the rail until the turn.
Prat allowed Ransom the Moon to inch forward inside around the bend before taking command at the top of the lane and, under a vigorous ride, held the fighting Roy H, who was carried very wide by the loose Drefong on the final turn, safe at the wire. After posting five-eighths in :57.48, the winner stopped the clock in 1:09.63 on a fast surface.
“On the backside I was concerned [about Drefong],” Prat said. “I thought he was going to cause me problems. But I stayed behind him and then, on the turn, he went outside and took [Roy H] out with him. I got to go inside and it worked out perfectly. My horse is a really nice horse and I think six furlongs is his best distance. I got lucky today, sometimes racing is like that.”
At odds of nearly 9-2, Ransom the Moon was worth $10.80, $4.20 and $3.60. Roy H, as the 8-5 post time favorite, was good for $3.20 and $2.80 and completed the $14 exacta. Moe Candy held on to third at the wire at 14-1 and paid $5.60. The trifecta was worth $57.30.
Kobe’s Back rallied for fourth after a rough break and was followed under the wire by Solid Wager, Denman’s Call, Magic Taste and St. Joe Bay. Drefong crossed the wire between rivals, but was returned to be unsaddled by the outrider while his rider returned to first aid and was checked out in good shape by the track physician.
“I’m fine,” Smith said. “The horse just outside me [St. Joe Bay] just brushed me a little it and sent [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 [up the rail] 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.”
According to D’Amato, Ransom the Moon — who began his career in Canada routing on the turf but has found a new life sprinting on dirt — will most likely prep once before the Breeders’ Cup, likely at Santa Anita in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (GI).
“Flavien did a great job feeling out the dynamics of the race and hats of to Peter Miller’s horse [Roy H] who ran a really good race,” D’Amato said. “The weird thing is I ran a filly in the fourth race who did the same thing Drefong did, she tried to make the gap too. Luckily everyone is alright. 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. That horse is such a big, strong, good-looking Adonis of a horse and since trying him on the dirt he’s been a totally different animal.”
Ransom the Moon was bred in Ontario, Canada by Sam-Son Farm and began his career at Woodbine under the care of trainer Malcom Pierce. He was purchased privately by his current owners earlier this year.