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Defunded's Versatility Could Aid Gold Cup Attempt

Country Grammer and Senor Buscador are among Defunded's Hollywood Gold Cup rivals.

Hollywood Gold Cup hopeful Defunded trailed early before winning the Californian Stakes at Santa Anita Park

Hollywood Gold Cup hopeful Defunded trailed early before winning the Californian Stakes at Santa Anita Park

Benoit Photo

Now that front-running Defunded has demonstrated the versatility to come from behind, trainer Bob Baffert has an even bigger juggernaut for the 1 1/4-mile Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) May 29 at Santa Anita. Second in last year's Gold Cup, Defunded will be trying for his fourth graded victory since last October and is slated to meet five others, including Baffert-trained Country Grammer .

Defunded led throughout the Oct. 1 Awesome Again Stakes (G1) and vied for the early lead to win the Nov. 27 Native Diver Stakes (G3). But due to an ill-timed backstep in the starting gate just as the starter pressed the button in the April 22 Californian Stakes (G2), Defunded had the opportunity to show Baffert and jockey Juan Hernandez that he could trail the field and still come home on top.

"He didn't get rank—that's the main thing," Baffert said. "He just relaxed. Now we know he can take back like that."

Baffert recalls only too well what a tough 2-year-old Defunded was, especially in the gate. A 5-year-old gelded son of Dialed In , Defunded is "maturing and filling out," Baffert said. Though a millionaire, Defunded, who will have Hernandez back aboard from post 4, doesn't boast the biggest bankroll in the Gold Cup field—or even in his own barn.

Country Grammer, primarily through forays to Dubai and Saudi Arabia, has more earnings than the entire Gold Cup field combined—actually more than five times as much. Winner of the 2022 Dubai World Cup (G1) and twice second in the Saudi Cup (G1), Country Grammer has lifetime earnings of $14,897,320.

Country Grammer carries jockey Lanfranco Dettori to victory in the Grade II $200,000 San Antonio Stakes Monday, December 26, 2022 on opening day at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA. Benoit Photo
Photo: Benoit Photo
Country Grammer and Frankie Dettori win the 2022 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita Park

With the Dec. 26 San Antonio Stakes (G2) as his last win, Country Grammer most recently finished seventh in this year's Dubai World Cup following his second runner-up effort in the Saudi Cup. The Gold Cup will be the first start since those journeys for the 6-year-old son of Tonalist , and Flavien Prat is set to ride him from the rail.

New Mexico-based trainer Todd Fincher has entered Senor Buscador in the Gold Cup. Senor Buscador has won stakes at Churchill Downs, Remington Park, and Sunland Park and most recently finished fourth in the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). Proxy  won that race, with 2023 Santa Anita Handicap (G1) winner Stilleto Boy third. Stilleto Boy was not nominated or entered in the Gold Cup.

Fincher has named Luis Saez to ride Senor Buscador from post 2. A 5-year-old son of Mineshaft , Senor Buscador has only raced 10 times. He missed 16 months following a fifth in the 2021 Risen Star Stakes (G2) due to a chip in an ankle and a subsequent stall injury.

In his first start back, Senor Buscador won an allowance race at Lone Star Park. He then ran twice at Del Mar last summer, with a third in the seven-furlong Pat O'Brien Stakes (G2). This will be Senor Buscador's first attempt at 1 1/4 miles.

Yes This Time, who won five consecutive races, including two turf stakes, in the East in 2021, will have the services of jockey Kazushi Kimura from post 3 for trainer Mark Glatt. Yes This Time, in Glatt's barn since early this year, has made one start on dirt through 19 career races—his debut in July 2020. He is coming into the Gold Cup off back-to-back seconds in allowance company on Santa Anita's turf course.

Kiss Today Goodbye, winner of the 2020 San Antonio, and allowance winner Piroli round out the field. Hector Berrios will ride Kiss Today Goodbye for trainer Eric Kruljac from post 6. Michael McCarthy trains Piroli, who will be ridden by Kent Desormeaux from post 5.

Entries: Hollywood Gold Cup S. (G1)

Santa Anita Park, Monday, May 29, 2023, Race 8

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/4m
  • Dirt
  • $400,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 4:44 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11Country Grammer (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat124Bob Baffert8/5
22Senor Buscador (KY)Luis Saez122Todd W. Fincher5/1
33Yes This Time (KY)Kazushi Kimura122Mark Glatt15/1
44Defunded (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJuan J. Hernandez124Bob Baffert4/5
55Piroli (KY)Kent J. Desormeaux122Michael W. McCarthy15/1
66Kiss Today Goodbye (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateHector Isaac Berrios122J. Eric Kruljac12/1