Defunded surprise Bob Baffert winner in Awesome Again Stakes

It came as no surprise that Bob Baffert won the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes in Tier 1. After all, he had four of the eight horses in Saturday’s race. It was surprising which Baffert horse won.

Defunded, who had never won a graded stakes race, took the lead early and wouldn’t give it up in the 1 1/8 mile race to win by 1¾ lengths and a fully paid entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 5th at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky.

All eyes were on his stablemate Country Grammer, who finished second to Flightline at the Pacific Classic in Del Mar a month ago. He won the $12 million Dubai World Cup this year and the bettors made him an even money favorite. He didn’t run a bad race and finished second. He just couldn’t catch Defunded and jockey Edwin Maldonado.

“Defunded used to do so well here and when we got to Del Mar he just had a breakdown in the paddock and wasn’t behaving,” Baffert said. “[Saturday] he was perfect. They all loaded the goal perfectly and I give Edwin a lot of credit for being such a great speed driver. When we got up I told him I threw him a nice horse [to Santa Anita] and he drove a perfect race.”

It was the first Grade 1 victory for the 39-year-old rider, who has competed in more than 12,000 races in his two-decade career.

“Bob told me I had a great opportunity in this race, so I put him in the lead,” Maldonado said. “And if Bob says you have a chance, then you have a chance. … At this point in my career, there was a big race coming up. It came through. What better time than day two in Santa Anita? A good time.”

Defunded and jockey Edwin Maldonado take down the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.

Defunded and jockey Edwin Maldonado take down the $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita Park on Saturday.

(Benoit photo via Associated Press)

Defunded paid $12.00, $4.60 and $3.40. Slow Down Andy was third followed by Express Train, Tripoli, Royal Ship, High Connection and Azul Coast.

It was the largest card of the 18-day Santa Anita fall meeting, with five tiered stakes.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding Forbidden Kingdom’s return to the $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship in Class 2. He was very much in the Kentucky Derby’s picture after winning the San Felipe Stakes by 5¾ lengths. But he faltered in the Santa Anita Derby and it was later revealed he had a health issue that caused him to be pulled from practice.

Whatever he had in March, the Forbidden Kingdom didn’t have it on Saturday. He was a well-beaten fifth in the field of six horses, having taken the lead for about half of the Six Aelen race.

Howbeit was the winner with a narrow victory over the 8-year-old gelding CZ Rocket. However, he was the fourth favorite and paid $14.40 to win coach Mark Glatt.

“I think he jumped past the wire and I wasn’t sure if I was ahead,” said winning jockey Mike Smith. “We needed every bit of this race to go through and win.”

In the $200,000 Class 2 John Henry Turf Championship, the Masteroffoxhounds ($6.20 to win) went goal to goal and won by a narrow margin. Starting on the grass downhill, the 5-year-old won for the first time since February 6, 2021 when jockey Umberto Rispoli pushed the horse out of the gate, took a lead of about three lengths down the backstretch and then held out of Dicey Mo Chara for winning the 1¼ Mle race. Trainer Phil D’Amato was a likely winner as he had half the entries in the six horse field.

Even-money winner of the Grade 2 $200,000 City of Hope Mile Stakes, Beyond Brilliant ($3.80) also won by a three-quarter length. It was his second stakes win in four starts for trainer John Shirreffs and jockey Victor Espinoza this year.

Glatt also picked up a win when Longshot Whatmakessammyrun ($38.00) won the $200,000 Class 2 Eddie D Stakes on the 6½-meter downhill turf course. After the dirt crossover, he took the lead and won by a three-quarter length under Joe Bravo.

Santa Anita has another Breeders’ Cup qualifier on Sunday, the five-pin Speakeasy Stakes on the grass. The winner receives an entry into the Juvenile Turf Race. Defunded surprise Bob Baffert winner in Awesome Again Stakes

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