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Aaron previews the 2023 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks & long shots from this “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Can the Bob Baffert-trained Defunded defend his title against a diverse field of 8 rivals that includes stablemate National Treasure? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
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In what appears to be a wide-open affair, multiple Grade I winning Defunded rates top billing among a field of nine 3-year-olds and up going a mile and one eighth as he defends his title in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.
The Awesome Again will be race 8 of 10 with an approximate post time of 4:30 p.m. PT. First post time for a 10-race card, that will include three other graded stakes on Saturday is at 1 p.m. Admission gates open at 11 a.m.
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A winner of this year’s Grade II Californian and Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup three and four starts back on May 29 and April 22, Defunded has five wins from nine starts at Santa Anita and despite the fact he was a well beaten sixth by stablemate Arabian Knight in the Grade I Pacific Classic Sept. 2, he rates a huge chance as he returns home to Santa Anita.
Trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Defunded is best served when he’s on the lead or pressing it early. Ridden by Juan Hernandez in his last five starts, he’ll be handled on Saturday by Edwin Maldonado, who was aboard for last year’s Awesome Again Win as well as his next start, a victory in the Grade III Native Diver at Del Mar on Nov. 27, 2022.
A 5-year-old gelding by Dialed In from the Touch Gold mare Wind Caper, Defunded is 19-7-4-2 overall with earnings of $1,606,600.
Doug O’Neill’s California-bred Slow Down Andy, a solid third, beaten 1 ½ lengths in the Pacific Classic, rates a huge chance in what will be his fourth start of the year. Owned and bred by Reddam Racing, LLC, Slow Down Andy is a 4-year-old colt by Nyquist who has kept top company throughout his career.
Out of the Square Eddie mare Edwina E, Slow Down Andy’s biggest performance to date came four starts back when he finished third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths by eventual Eclipse Champion Cody’s Wish in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 5, 2022 at Keeneland—earning an Awesome Again best 103 Beyer Speed Figure.
Slow Down Andy, who will again be ridden by Mario Gutierrez, was third in last year’s Awesome Again and is 13-4-4-3 overall with earnings of $1,096,600.
A winner of the Grade I Preakness Stakes three starts back on May 20, Baffert’s National Treasure has been well beaten by top sophomore Arcangelo in his last two starts, the Grade I Travers on Aug. 26 and the Grade I Belmont Stakes June 10 and will be facing older horses for the first time.
Ridden in all of his previous eight starts by John Velazquez, naturally quick National Treasure, a 3-year-old colt by Quality Road out of the Medaglia d’Oro mare Treasure will be ridden by for the first time by Juan Hernandez.
Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, et al, National Treasure is 8-2-1-2 overall with earnings of $1,415,000.
Named for the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, the Awesome Again is a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race Qualifier, with the winner earning a fees-paid berth into the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita on Nov. 4.
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