Saturday’s $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (GI) at Del Mar marks the second Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event of the summer meet and a field of 11 will race the six furlongs in search of a spot in the starting gate for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) on Nov. 3. Saturday’s feature also marks the return of last year’s winner, Drefong, making his first start since that race after suffering a series of minor injuries and setbacks.
The weather in Southern California continues to be beautiful and Saturday will be no exception, with highs in the mid-70s and a nice ocean breeze expected.
Named for the founder of the historic seaside track, the Bing Crosby has consistently showcased the best sprinters west of the Mississippi River and, over the years, some of the horses to have graced the winner’s circle have included several prominent names, including champion sprinters Chinook Pass, Lit de Justice, Kona Gold (twice) and Points Offthebench.
Baoma Racing’s Drefong is the slight favorite despite the lengthy absence and is a good candidate for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to pick up his fifth win in the summertime sprint. The 4-year-old son of Gio Ponti and a Ghostzapper mare, who should, by all accounts, be a turf marathoner, has always been an overachiever since his second start, winning every race by open lengths.
His speed is his weapon and, in each of his five career wins, his rider has been able to use it pretty much from the break and dominate his rivals at every call. He’s been back in consistent training for over a month and has fired bullet after bullet after bullet, signaling he’s ready for his comeback. Baffert’s go-to rider Mike Smith is back aboard and if the colt can put up speed, pace and class numbers like he did last year, he should have no trouble reaching the wire in front here.
Kona Gold Stakes (GII) winner Ransom the Moon returns off a gutsy second-place finish to Danzing Candy in the San Carlos Stakes (GII) last out and the reformed turf distance runner, who appears to have finally found his niche sprinting on the main track, may prefer the cutback in distance here.
Since the switch, the 5-year-old son of Malibu Moon has tossed up some impressive figures, including three straight BRIS speed numbers in the triple-digit range, and has shown a nice rating ability, which should come in handy here with a ton of early speed expected. He’s definitely taking a class hike, but he’s in good hands with trainer Phil D’Amato and hot jockey Flavien Prat. So, while he’s still a bit of a question mark, what he’s shown so far sprinting may be good enough to post the upset.
Big Macher, who won this race in 2014, is now seven years old and back for another round after an 18-month layoff and a prep in the Thor’s Echo Stakes at Santa Anita last month, which he won as if he never missed a beat. The California-bred son of Beau Genius has been victorious in eight of his 20 career starts and most have been at Saturday’s distance. He’s had a lot of layoffs over the years, but, for the most part, when he runs, he runs. He’s a stalker who likes a fast early pace, so jockey Rafael Bejarano just needs a good break and to get him to sit behind the speed in the early going from post five.
Roy returns to California after winning the True North Handicap (GII) at Belmont on Belmont Stakes weekend for trainer Peter Miller and the son of More Than Ready is riding a three-race win streak. The figures he posted in his last win were through the roof and by far the best of any of the runners in this field, but he will have company on the lead from some tough customers, which could prove too much pressure under jockey Paco Lopez.
Denman’s Call won the Triple Bend Handicap (GI) two back, beating the ultra-fast Masochistic, but hasn’t made an impact in two starts since. The rail post isn’t ideal and he may actually prefer more distance, but he has talent and ability and may be a decent price at post time off his 20-1 morning line for trainer Doug O’Neill and jockey Tyler Baze.
St. Joe Bay makes his first start since a nice fourth behind division leader Mind Your Biscuits in the March 25 Dubai Golden Shaheen at Meydan. The gelded son of Saint Anddan has two graded stakes wins (one a dead heat) in his last four starts and while he owns a win from two starts at this distance, it may be a tad short for him overall.
Solid Wager hasn’t done much since his dead-heat win in the Midnight Lute Stakes on New Year’s Eve and, while a talented runner, he’s only won once in six tries at this distance and seems to prefer more ground.
Kobe’s Back hasn’t won in more than 15 months and while he’ll get the pace he loves and will be rolling at the end, he has had some trouble getting to the wire in time against the better runners here.
With his best, Moe Candy could prove a tough runner to pick up a share.
Coastline has tested graded stakes waters to not much avail and while a productive horse, a win seems a stretch against the top contenders.
Magic Taste is probably better off in allowance/optional claiming company.