Country Grammer was the 11-10 favorite in Saturday’s $301,500 Awesome Again (G1) at Santa Anita, but the “other Baffert” angle came to the fore when Defunded pocketed the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) “Win and You’re In.”
Campaigned by Bob Baffert’s longtime clients Michael Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Defunded had yet to win a stakes. The Dialed In gelding nearly achieved a trophy in the 2021 Los Alamitos Derby (G3), where he missed by a nose. He’d also placed second in last year’s Affirmed (G3) and the May 30 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1). Defunded then lost the plot at Del Mar, disappointing in both the July 30 San Diego H. (G2) and Aug. 27 Pat O’Brien (G2).
Back at Santa Anita, however, Defunded finally put it all together with new rider Edwin Maldonado. The 5-1 chance hustled to the front and carved out splits of :22.67, :46.70, and 1:10.89. Slow Down Andy, who buckled leaving the gate, regrouped to become his nearest pursuer. Challenging on the turn into the stretch, Slow Down Andy displayed his oft-awkward head carriage. Defunded rebuffed him and pulled away.
Country Grammer again shaped like a 1 1/4-mile horse lacking sufficient gears in a 1 1/8-mile race. The class of the field gained momentum late to overhaul Slow Down Andy, but couldn’t threaten his more tactical stablemate.
Defunded drove home by 1 3/4 lengths in 1:49.38 and returned $12. Country Grammer can use this as a solid tune-up for the Classic at his optimal trip. Slow Down Andy, relegated to third by a half-length, may want to revert to turf.
Express Train wound up a lackluster fourth, heading Tripoli, who showed interest in the opening strides before dropping back. There was a 13-length chasm back to a subpar Royal Ship, trailed by Baffert’s duo of High Connection and Azul Coast.
Defunded’s resume now reads 12-4-3-1, $518,100. The $210,000 Keeneland September yearling was thrown straight from his maiden win into the 2021 Santa Anita Derby (G1), and found it all happening too soon in fourth. A better fourth next time to Jackie’s Warrior in the Pat Day Mile (G2), Defunded was on an upward curve in his graded near-misses last summer. He continued his progress in both starts at Santa Anita this spring, so his Del Mar blips are outliers.
Bred by Athens Woods in Kentucky, Defunded is out of multiple stakes-placed Wind Caper, a Touch Gold mare from the family of multiple Grade 1 victor Code of Honor.