Defunded Overcomes Bad Break To Take Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes
DEFUNDED OVERCOMES BAD BREAK TO TAKE GRADE II, $200,000 CALIFORNIAN STAKES BY THREE LENGTHS AS BAFFERT & HERNANDEZ POSE FOR PICTURES
5-YEAR-OLD GELDING LIKELY HEADED TO GRADE I HOLLYWOOD GOLD CUP ON MAY 29
ARCADIA, CA (April 22, 2023)—An odds-on multiple stakes winner that was expected to be on the lead in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Californian Stakes at Santa Anita, Defunded took a crow-hop leaving the gate and instead of being in front, found himself last in a field of six, four lengths off the lead around the Club House turn.
It mattered not however, as the classy 5-year-old gelding cruised into contention around the far turn and then fairly mowed down the competition in a command performance that enabled to him to win by three lengths. Trained by Bob Baffert and ridden by Juan Hernandez, Defunded got a mile and one eighth in 1:48.91 and certainly appears headed to the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup here on May 29 at a mile and one quarter.
With Mr. Impossible and Midnight Mammoth battling for early supremacy, Midnight Mammoth took the lead heading up the backside and he was headed mid-way around the far turn by Brazilian-bred Royal Ship, but Defunded, under a vigorous hand ride, got on terms with both of them at the top of the lane and his class prevailed from there.
“He was standing really good and at the last moment, he decided to take a step back and at that time, they gave us the break, so he kind of hopped in the air,” said Hernandez, who registered his second stakes win of the day. “After the bad break, he relaxed very well behind those horses. He wasn’t rank at all and down the backside, I felt like I had a lot of horse.
“Around the three eighths, I swung out and I put him in the clear and when I did that, he picked it up by himself. I just let him go and he caught the horses.”
Most recently a close third in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap March 4, Defunded was off today at 1-5 and paid $2.40, $2.10 and $2.10.
“He’s always had a little issue at the gate,” said Baffert, who notched his fourth career win in the Californian. “Juan said that he was standing perfect and right when they kicked it, he stepped back and that’s why he hopped out of there…He said he was never rank. He was in the bridle, and he was just being patient with him…Down the backside, I wasn’t sure, I thought we missed the race.
“I almost didn’t run him in here, but he was doing so well I put him in the race to freshen him up a little bit…I’m just happy Karl Watson (owner) was here with his wife to watch the race, so it was exciting. I like the fact that he has always been one dimensional and it looks like now he’s maturing, getting older and he is starting to fill out. He’s always been a little bit of a head case but now he’s figuring it out and he knows he’s a good horse, so that’s important.”
By Dialed In out of the Touch Gold mare Wind Caper, Defunded is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman. In garnering his third career graded stakes win, he improved his overall mark to 16-6-4-2 and with the winner’s share of $120,000, increased his earnings to $1,348,100.
Trained by Richard Mandella and ridden by Mike Smith, Royal Ship finished second by one length in front of Midnight Mammoth and paid $3.00 and $2.20 as the second choice at 9-2.
Ridden by Kyle Frey, Midnight Mammoth was off at 15-1 and paid $3.20 to show while finishing a half length better than fellow longshot Kiss Today Goodbye.
Fractions on the race were 23.22, 47.35, 1:11.00 and 1:35.82.
First post time for a 10-race card on Sunday is at 1 p.m. with admission gates opening at 11 a.m.