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Country Grammer, Royal Ship Lead Pacific Classic Also-Rans | 2022 Awesome Again Stakes Preview & FREE Picks
Country Grammer (right) defeats Royal Ship in the 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup (Benoit Photo)

Country Grammer, Royal Ship Lead Pacific Classic Also-Rans | 2022 Awesome Again Stakes Preview & FREE Picks

Aaron previews the 2022 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita Park, then gives his top picks and longshots from this “Win & You’re In” for the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1). Country Grammer and Royal Ship are among the several horses who lost to Flightline in the 2022 Pacific Classic (G1) and are now trying to qualify for the World Championships in a decidedly easier spot. Tell us YOUR thoughts in the Comments section!

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The track press release:

Company kept is certainly one of the biggest factors in racing and although he was beaten some 19 ¼ lengths, nobody kept better company than Bob Baffert’s Country Grammer in his most recent start.  Fast forward to Saturday and on the relative strength of his second place run to the mighty Flightline in the Grade I Pacific Classic Sept. 3 and overall resume, Country Grammer is the horse to beat as a field of eight 3-year-olds and up go a mile and one eighth in the Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at Santa Anita.

Should he win, Country Grammer would earn a fees-paid berth into the Classic and a likely re-engagement with Flightline as the Awesome Again is a Breeders’ Cup “Win & You’re In” Challenge Race qualifier.

A handy 1 ¾ length winner of the Group I, $10 million Dubai World Cup three starts back on March 26, Country Grammer, a 5-year-old horse by Tonalist out of the Forestry mare Arabian Song, will shorten up an eighth of a mile on Saturday and be ridden for the first time by Juan Hernandez.

With Flightline knocking down a 126 Beyer Speed Figure in the Pacific Classic, Country Grammer, whose top career 108 Beyer came from a close second place finish in the Grade II Californian at Santa Anita in April of 2021, checked in with a 100 Beyer at Del Mar. 

Owned by Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, LLC, Winstar Farm, LLC and Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., Country Grammer, has a win and a second from two starts at Santa Anita and by virtue of his win in Dubai, is by far the leading money earner in the field with $11,097,320 from an overall mark of 12-4-4-1.

Third, beaten 26 ¼ lengths by Flightline in the Pacific Classic, Brazilian-bred Royal Ship, who defeated Country Grammer by 2 ¼ lengths in the Grade II San Diego Handicap two starts back on July 30, will hope to bounce back with a top effort for Richard Mandella on Saturday.

A close second to Country Grammer in the Hollywood Gold Cup seven starts back on May 30, 2021, Royal Ship is 4-2-1-1 at Santa Anita.  A 6-year-old gelding by Midshipman, Royal Ship, a Group I winner at age four in his native Brazil, is owned by Fox Hill Farms Inc. and Siena Farm, LLC and is looking for his first North American Grade I victory.

A half length back of Royal Ship in the Pacific Classic, C R K Stable’s Express Train has outstanding lifetime numbers at Santa Anita and was a winner of the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap three starts back on March 5.  Trained by John Shirreffs, Express Train, took a total of three graded stakes here this past Winter and is 11-4-4-2 at Santa Anita dating back to a fourth place finish at age two in the Grade I American Pharoah Stakes in September, 2019.

A 5-year-old horse by Union Rags out of the Mineshaft mare I’m a Flake, Express Train, who was third in last year’s Awesome Again to top 3-year-old Medina Spirit, will be ridden back by Victor Espinoza.

One of four Baffert entrants, Defunded, who was a close second in the Grade I Hollywood Gold Cup at Santa Anita three starts back on May 30, enters the Awesome Again off a pair of sub-par efforts at Del Mar—in the seven furlong Pat O’Brien Aug. 27 and in the Grade II San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on July 30.

A 4-year-old gelding by Dialed In, Defunded, who has two wins and a pair of seconds at Santa Anita, is owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.  He will be ridden for the first time by Edwin Maldonado. 

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

  1. Azul Coast—Hector Berrios—124
  2. Royal Ship—Mike Smith—124
  3. High Connection—Abel Cedillo–118
  4. Country Grammer—Juan Hernandez—124
  5. Tripoli—Ramon Vazquez—122
  6. Defunded—Edwin Maldonado—122
  7. Express Train—Victor Espinoza–124
  8. Slow Down Andy—Mario Gutierrez–120

                          First post time for a 10-race card that will also include five other stakes on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m.