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Defunded won the 2023 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita Park after holding off Piroli the length of the stretch. Is the Bob Baffert trainee the top older dirt male in the country? Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!
Having long since eclipsed the legendary Charlie Whittingham as Santa Anita’s all-time leading stakes winning trainer, Bob Baffert surpassed the Bald Eagle on Memorial Day at Santa Anita as the all-time winningest trainer in the 85-year history of the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup, as the Nogales, AZ native rang up his ninth career victory in the iconic test for three-year-olds and up that was first won by Seabiscuit in 1938.
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With Defunded breaking sharply, Juan Hernandez was able to control proceedings throughout and kept a tenacious Piroli and Kent Desormeaux at bay the length of the stretch, prevailing by a half length while getting a mile and a quarter in 2:02.85. Although he hopped at the break and then rallied for an incredible three length score in the Grade II Californian Stakes at a mile one eighth on April 22, Defunded was large and in charge today as he registered his second Grade I win and his fourth graded stakes win in a 17-race career that has now produced seven wins, four seconds and two third place finishes. “Today, he was very professional,” said Hernandez, who for the first time in his career, got his second Grade I winner in one day as he took the Grade I Shoemaker Mile aboard Exaulted in Monday’s sixth race. “He was pulling on the backside, which is a really good sign. I waited until the last quarter (mile) and he switched leads and gave me two good jumps toward the wire. “He really didn’t get tired. In the Santa Anita Handicap (where he finished a close third), they put pressure on us and the fractions were faster. It was a different story today. Piroli is a nice horse. I’ve ridden him before. He likes to go outside, but I had a lot of confidence in my horse for the final push to the wire. This is the first time I’ve won two Grade I’s in one day. I dream of these big races. They are coming to me thanks to my agent Craig O’Bryan.” Off as the 3-5 favorite in a field of six 3-year-olds and up, Defunded, a 5-year-old gelding by Dialed In, paid $3.20, $2.60 and $2.10. “I would have liked to have seen Country Grammer (eventual fourth place finisher) second and run one-two, but Defunded is a tough horse,” said Baffert, who won his first Gold Cup with part-owner Mike Pegram’s Real Quiet in 1999. “This horse today, he got the lead and he wasn’t going to let anybody pass him. He is just improving and getting better. I was happy to see him get the mile and a quarter.” Owned by Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Defunded, who is out of the Touch Gold mare Wind Caper, picked up $240,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $1,588,100. Ridden for the first time by Desormeaux for trainer Michael McCarthy, Piroli, who dogged the winner around the far turn and into deep stretch, ran a huge race in what was his first stakes engagement. Off at 28-1, he paid $10.40 and $6.80 while finishing 3 ¼ lengths in front of Kiss Today Goodbye.
Ridden by Hector Berrios, Kiss Today Goodbye was off at 37-1 and paid $8.20 while finishing a half length in front of 2-1 second choice Country Grammer.
Gold Cup fractions, all set by Defunded, were 23.89, 47.59, 1:11.83 and 1:36.27.
JUAN HERNANDEZ, DEFUNDED, WINNER : “Today he was very professional. He broke really comfortably. He pulling me on the back side, which is a really good sign. I waited until the last quarter and he switched leads and gave me two good jumps toward the wire. He really didn’t get tired. In the Santa Anita Handicap, they put pressure on us and the fractions were faster. It was a different story today. Piroli is a nice horse. I’ve ridden him before. He likes to go outside, but I had a lot of confidence in my horse for the final push to the wire. This is the first time I have won two Grade I’s in one day. I dream of these big races. They are coming to me thanks to my agent Craig O’Bryan.”
BOB BAFFERT, DEFUNDED, WINNER: “I would have like to seen Country Grammer second and run 1-2 but Defunded is a tough horse. This horse today he got the lead and he wasn’t going to let anybody pass him. He is just improving and getting better. I was happy to see him get a mile and a quarter.” KARL WATSON, DEFUNDED, WINNER: “It is fantastic. Defunded has won two Grade I’s now, it is just unbelievable, this is great.” MIKE PEGRAM, DEFUNDED, WINNER: It is a tough game, so when you win you never apologize and this horse is getting good so we are going to enjoy it.”
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