Defunded did not have a good summer at Del Mar.
The 4-year-old son of Dialed In ran sixth and seventh in a pair of Grade II stakes. Before each of those starts, trainer Bob Baffert said Defunded was antsy in the paddock.
Things changed last month when Defunded won the Grade I Awesome Again Handicap by 1½ lengths over Country Grammer at Santa Anita.
And Sunday afternoon, Defunded erased “inconsistent” from his résumé when he won a second straight race, carrying the high weight of 125 pounds to a 4¾-length win over Azul Coast in the $100,000, 11/8-mile, Grade III Native Diver Stakes.
It wasn’t totally incident-free. Defunded was last out of the gate. But he quickly moved to within striking distance of the lead before taking over and pulling away in the stretch under jockey Edwin Maldonado.
“He came away from there a little bit slowly, but I wasn’t concerned,” said Maldonado. “This horse doesn’t need to be in front. I rode him with confidence all the way. On the turn, he wanted to lean on the horse inside us (early leader Go Joe Won), but I got him going straight and it worked out from there.”
“He’s always had talent,” Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said of Defunded ($3.40). “It’s just that he’s been a little aggressive in the paddock at times. But he went through the paddock good and he went to the gate good. Maybe we have him straightened out.”
Also, both of Defunded’s recent wins have come with Maldonado in the saddle.
“Edwin said Defunded was kind of wanting to sit back in the gate and when that happens, you’re going the wrong way when the gate opens,” said Barnes. “Luckily, the field was going slow enough that he was able to recover and get back in a good position.”
Grade I races on tap
Del Mar’s ninth fall meeting concludes next weekend with five stakes races during the second half of the Turf Festival — including two, $400,000 Grade I events. However, the long-range weather reports show a possibility of rain.
The Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds will be run Saturday at 11/8 miles on the grass. The Matriarch Stakes will be run next Sunday at one mile on the turf for older fillies and mares.
Nominees for both races include a number of horses from eastern tracks as well as a pair of horses who won stakes races earlier in this meeting.
The Peter Miller-trained Handy Dandy is among 14 nominees for the Hollywood Derby. Handy Dandy won the Let It Ride Stakes on opening day with Juan Hernandez up.
The Derby nominations include five shippers with three from trainer Graham Motion — back-to-back winner Evan Harlan, Speaking Scout and Spirit, who finished second to Handy Dandy in the Let It Ride.
Other potential shippers are Shug McGaughey’s Celestial City (also coming off two straight wins) and Todd Pletcher’s Wit.
There are 13 nominees in the Matriarch, including Motion’s Bipartisanship, who won the Kathryn Crosby Stakes on the opening weekend with Hernandez up. Other possible “shippers” include the Chad Brown tandem of Dolce Zel (who had a win and a third in graded stakes at Saratoga last summer) and Regal Glory (who has a Grade I win on her résumé); Christophe Clement’s Pizza Bianca (owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay) and Bill Mott’s Wakanaka.
Del Mar training leader Phil D’Amato has three nominees in Hamwood Flier (who has won three of her last four starts), Island of Love and Rhea Moon (seeking a third straight win).
Owner Cohen dies
Del Mar resident Jed Cohen, 89, who owned 16 stakes winners over six decades in the sport, died Sunday morning, according to son Tim.
Cohen, a financial adviser, owned horses out of his Red Baron’s Farm and Rancho Temescal. Cohen’s Percolate won the final race on Saturday. Cohen was the leading owner at the fall meeting at Santa Anita and leads the fall meeting at Del Mar.
He is survived by his wife, Roberta; children Tim, Mark and Linda, and two grandsons.
Mike Smith rode first-time starter Precious Baby ($52.20), the second-longest price of the meeting, to victory in the first race ahead of 1-2 favorite Shocking Grey (Tyler Baze). Baze is now 2 for his last 101 turf races at Southern California tracks since the start of the Del Mar summer meet.
Center is a freelance writer.