Classy Defunded Heads Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian
CLASSY DEFUNDED HEADS SATURDAY’S GRADE II, $200,000 CALIFORNIAN AS BAFFERT & HERNANDEZ TEAM UP IN ICONIC PREP TO HOLLYWOOD GOLD CUP
ARCADIA, CA (April 19, 2023)—A close third as the favorite in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 4 and second in the Grade I Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28, Bob Baffert’s Defunded heads a field of six older horses going a mile and one eighth in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita. An iconic prep to the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup here on Memorial Day, May 29, the Californian, first won in 1954 by Imbros, who became the sire of the legendary Hall of Fame gelding Native Diver, will be contested for the 70th time on Saturday.
A 5-year-old gelding by Dialed In, Defunded, who showed the way to deep stretch when ridden by Juan Hernandez in the Big Cap, was beaten three quarters of a length. With Hernandez back aboard on Saturday, Defunded will be seeking his third graded stakes victory in what will be his 16th career start.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Defunded, who was second in last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup, won the Grade I Awesome Again going a mile and one eighth four starts back here on Oct. 1, which he followed with a rousing four-length score at the same distance in the Grade III Native Diver at Del Mar Nov. 27.
With a 7-3-2-1 line score at Santa Anita, Defunded, easily the leading money earner in the field with $1,228,100, is 15-5-4-2 overall.
Trainer Craig Dollase’s Midnight Mammoth, a freakish gate to wire winner of a second condition allowance going a mile and one sixteenth here on March 19, could duke it out early on the lead with the top choice if jockey Kyle Frey seeks to once again employ front-running tactics.
A 5 ¼ length winner at 11-1, Midnight Mammoth, who was claimed for $50,000 by owner Jeffrey Sengara on March 3, earned a career-best 90 Beyer Speed Figure first off the claim and will hope to improve upon that in the Californian.
A 4-year-old ridgling by Midnight Lute out of the Vindication mare Taker Home, Midnight Mammoth, who is 17-4-4-4 overall, will be making his first graded stakes start.
Most recently well beaten on turf in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile March 4, Brazilian-bred Royal Ship will be making his second start off a layoff as he tries to reverse a skein of three double digit defeats—in the Kilroe, the Grade I Awesome Again and three starts back, in the Grade I Pacific Classic Sept. 3 at Del Mar.
Third in last year’s Hollywood Gold Cup five starts back, Royal Ship was a close second in the 2021 Gold Cup, which followed a neck victory in the Californian on April 17, 2021.
Trained by Richard Mandella and owned by Fox Hollow Racing, LLC and Sienna Farm, LLC, 7-year-old gelding Royal Ship, a Group I and Group III winner in Brazil, has two graded stakes wins with Mandella and is 2-1-1 from five starts at Santa Anita.
With his most recent win coming four starts back in the Grade II San Diego Handicap July 30, Royal Ship will be making his 15th stateside start—all in combination with Mike Smith. With career earnings of $691,405 from an overall mark of 21-8-2-5, Royal Ship, who won the 2021 Californian pressing the pace, will likely be in close attendance on Saturday.
__THE GRADE II CALIFORNIAN WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER __
Race 9 of 10 Approximate post time 5 p.m. PT
- Defunded—Juan Hernandez—122
- Kiss Today Goodbye—Hector Berrios--120
- Mr. Impossible—Ramon Vazquez—120
- Midnight Mammoth—Kyle Frey—120
- Parnelli—Victor Espinoza--120
- Royal Ship—Mike Smith—122
First post time for a 10-race card on Saturday is at 1 p.m. with admission gates opening at 11 a.m.