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2023 Hollywood Gold Cup Preview & FREE Picks | Baffert Holds Strong Hand With Country Grammer, Defunded
Defunded (Lindsay Affleck)

2023 Hollywood Gold Cup Preview & FREE Picks | Baffert Holds Strong Hand With Country Grammer, Defunded

Aaron previews the 2023 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) from Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks & long shots. Trainer Bob Baffert holds a strong hand with Country Grammer (the 2021 Gold Cup winner) and Defunded (runner-up in last year’s Gold Cup), but could a longshot upset them both? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The press release:

                Currently tied with the legendary Bald Eagle Charlie Whittingham with eight lifetime wins in the prestigious Grade I, $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, Bob Baffert will seek to shatter yet another American Racing standard on Monday at Santa Anita as he sends out the potent one-two combination of Defunded and Country Grammer as a field of six 3-year-olds and up go a mile and one quarter.

                With the immortal Seabiscuit winning the inaugural running at Hollywood Park in 1938, the Gold Cup will be run for the 85th time on Memorial Day, Monday.  Baffert, whose first Gold Cup win came with Real Quiet in 1999, notched his most recent win with Country Grammer here at Santa Anita in 2021.

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                A 5-year-old gelding by Dialed In, Defunded comes off a facile three length win at 1-5 in the mile and one eighth Californian on April 22 and in a tough call, gets top billing with a solid recent race to his credit.  Second in last year’s Gold Cup, Defunded showed a new dimension in winning the Californian, as he hopped at the break and was thus required to settle well off the pace and rally for the win.

                On or near the early lead in most of his races, Defunded, with the Californian victory in-hand, approaches this year’s Gold Cup at the absolute top of his game.  A winner of the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at a mile and one eighth five starts back on Oct. 1, Defunded seeks his fourth graded stakes win on Monday.

                Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Defunded has a win and a second place finish at a mile and one quarter and is 16-6-4-2 overall with earnings of $1,348,100.

                Second two years in a row in the $20 million Saudi Cup and a winner of last year’s $6 million Dubai World Cup, Country Grammer ranks as the fifth leading Thoroughbred money earner with $14,897,320.

                A narrow second two starts back in the Grade I Saudi Cup Feb. 25, Country Grammer was never a factor when beaten 13 ¾ lengths in the Group I Dubai World Cup March 25.

                A smashing 4 ½ length winner of the Grade II San Antonio Stakes here three starts back on Dec. 26, Country Grammer, who was ridden in his last three starts by the departed Frankie Dettori, will get the services of Flavien Prat, who was aboard for Country Grammer’s 2021 Gold Cup victory. 

                Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., Winstar Farm, LLC and Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, LLC, Country Grammer, 6-year-old full horse by Tonalist out of the Forestry mare Arabian Song, has two wins and three seconds from seven tries at a mile and one quarter and is 16-5-6-1 overall.

                New Mexico-based trainer Todd Fincher will have his first Gold Cup starter as he saddles Senor Buscador, a Grade III winner going one mile at Churchill Downs four starts back on Oct. 1.  Most recently a close fourth to Mike Stidham’s multiple graded stakes winning Proxy in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap at a mile and one eighth April 22, Senor Buscador, a 5-year-old full horse by Mineshaft, will be trying a mile and one quarter for the first time.

                Out of the Desert God mare Rose’s Desert, Senor Buscador was bred in Kentucky by Joe Peacock Sr. and his son, Joe Jr., who is also the owner.  A winner of five of his 10 starts, he has earnings of $479,427.


Race 8 of 10  Approximate post time 4:30 p.m. PT

  1. Country Grammer—Flavien Prat—124
  2. Senor Buscador—Luis Saez—122
  3. Yes This Time—Kazushi Kimura—122
  4. Defunded—Juan Hernandez—124
  5. Piroli—Kent Desormeaux—122
  6. Kiss Today Goodbye—Hector Berrios—122

                First post time for a 10-race card on Memorial Day, Monday, is at 1 p.m. with admission gates opening at 11 a.m.