Santa Anita features four graded stakes with Breeders’ Cup implications Saturday, and the $300,000 Awesome Again (G1) will award an expenses-paid berth as a “Win & You’re In” for the $6 million Classic (G1) at the same venue on Nov. 4. Defunded will make a title defense against eight rivals in the 1 1/8-mile event.
Awesome Again (G1)
Following unplaced efforts in the Pacific Classic (G1) and San Diego (G2) at Del Mar, Defunded will try to get back into the win column. The five-year-old gelding has shown an affinity for Santa Anita, recording convincing wins in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and Californian (G2) this summer, and he led all the way recording a convincing win in last year’s Awesome Again.
Defunded hasn’t been on or close to the lead in recent starts, but the pace complexion may favor him Saturday. Edwin Maldonado, who was up for a pair of stakes victories last year, retakes the reins for Bob Baffert, and the chestnut figures to show speed from post 2.
Slow Down Andy exits a pair of respectable efforts, finishing third in the Pacific Classic and second in the San Diego, and the four-year-old colt brings imposing Brisnet Speed ratings. Mario Gutierrez rides for Doug O’Neill. Preakness (G1) winner National Treasure adds blinkers following unplaced showings in the Travers (G1) and Belmont (G1), and Juan Hernandez picks up the assignment for Baffert.
San Diego winner Senor Buscador, a closing fourth in the Pacific Classic, is also part of the mix. Santa Anita H. (G1) upsetter Stilleto Boy will look to turn things around following a couple of disappointing efforts. Grade 1-placed Skinner seeks to advance off a fifth in the Pacific Classic, and Hollywood Gold Cup runner-up Piroli has run his best races at Santa Anita.
Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2)
Multiple Grade 1 winner Dr. Schivel, a rallying neck third in the Bing Crosby (G1) last out, heads a field of nine in the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G2) at six furlongs. The five-year-old son of Violence has captured three of five starts at Santa Anita, including the 2021 edition of Saturday’s race, and Hernandez will guide the stalker.
Baffert has a pair of dangerous three-year-olds, Woody Stephens (G1) winner Arabian Lion and Fort Bragg, who defeated Saudi Crown by a nose in the Dwyer (G3) two back. Maldonado rides the speedy Arabian Lion, and Ramon Vasquez will look to stalk and pounce aboard Fort Bragg.
Other contestants include American Theorem, C Z Rocket, Spirit of Makena, and Visitant.
City of Hope Mile (G2)
Multiple Grade 2 winner Hong Kong Harry, last seen recording a close third in the Shoemaker Mile (G1) in late May, will return to action in the $200,000 City of Hope Mile (G2). The six-year-old gelding is a three-time winner on Santa Anita’s turf for Phil d’Amato, and Hernandez has the call. D’Amato also has Cathkin Peak, runner-up in last year’s edition, in the nine-horse field. The five-year-old gelding will try to get back on track in his third start back from the layoff.
French import Twist, a convincing allowance winner two back, is eligible to improve upon a troubled fifth in the Del Mar Mile (G2). Grade 1 victor Hit the Road will seek to rekindle past form. Shoemaker Mile runner-up Irideo and last-out allowance scorer Astronomer are also part of the cast.
Eddie D (G2)
Stakes winner Lane Way heads 11 turf sprinters in the $200,000 Eddie D. (G2) at about 6 1/2 furlongs on the downhill course. Winner of the Clocker’s Corner two back, the six-year-old gelding has recorded three wins and two seconds in his last five starts on Santa Anita’s turf, including a narrow runner-up effort in last year’s Eddie D. Mike Smith rides for Richard Mandella.
Grade 2 winner Bran will make his second start back for John Sadler. A three-time stakes winner last year, including a pair at Santa Anita, the five-year-old gelding will be running late with Hernandez. Other runners include Balnikhov, I’m a Gambler, Noble Reflection, Sumter, and Unconquerable Keen.