Defunded and Edwin Maldonado winning the Awesome Again and earning a fees-paid Breeders’ Cup Classic berth
Bob Baffert, sidelined earlier in the year with a 90-day suspension, proved yet again that he is very much “back” as he collected his record eighth win in Saturday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif., with longshot Defunded. Ridden by Edwin Maldonado, Defunded, made every pole a winning one and easily defeated his heavily favored stablemate Country Grammer by 1 ¾ lengths, giving Baffert the exacta. A 4-year-old gelding by Dialed In, Defunded got 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:49.38.
A Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Series qualifier, the Awesome Again win thus provides Defunded with a fees-paid berth in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland Nov. 5.
Large and in charge through splits of 22.67, 46.70, 1:10.89 and 1:36.06, Defunded, ridden for the first time by Maldonado, never looked a loser in providing the veteran rider with his first career Grade 1 victory. Most recently a tiring sixth in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes going seven furlongs, Defunded was off at 5-1 in a field of eight 3-year-olds and up and paid $12.00, $4.60 and $3.40.
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Defunded, who collected his first-ever graded stakes win, is now 12-4-3-1 overall and with the winner’s share of $180,000, he increased his earnings to $518,100.
Although he never threatened the winner, Country Grammer kept to his task late and was game in overhauling Slow Down Andy for the place. Off at even money under Juan Hernandez, Country Grammer paid $3.00 and $2.40.
Slow Down Andy, who sat second nearly the entire trip, was off at 14-1 under Mario Gutierrez and paid $4.40 to show.
EDWIN MALDONADO, DEFUNDED, WINNER: “It was a very nice trip. Bob told me I had a great shot in this race so put him on the lead. And when Bob says you have a shot, you have a shot. I just want to thank Bob and all the connections for the opportunity, I’m grateful to be here. At the point of my career right now, I was due for a big race. It came through. What better time than the second day in Santa Anita? A good time.”
BOB BAFFERT, DEFUNDED, WINNER: “I’m proud. Defunded ran so well here before and when we got to Del Mar, he just had a melt down in the Paddock and didn’t behave himself. Today he was perfect. They all loaded in the gate perfect, and I give Edwin a lot of the credit he is such a great speed rider. I told him I’d throw him a nice horse when we got up here and he rode a perfect race.”