Forget summer, Defunded loves fall at Del Mar

Defunded didn’t 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 eager in the paddock.

That changed last month when Defunded won the Grade I Awesome Again Handicap by 1½ lengths over Country Grammer at Santa Anita.

And on Sunday afternoon, Defunded erased “inconsistent” from his resume when he won a second straight race, leading the 125-pound heavyweight to a 4¾-length victory over Azul Coast in the $100,000, 11/8 miles, Grade III Native Diver. Stakes.

It wasn’t completely without incident. Defiant was the last one out of the gate. But he quickly moved to within striking distance of the leader before taking the lead and dropping out in the race under jockey Edwin Maldonado.

“He got out of there a little slow, but I wasn’t worried,” Maldonado said. “This horse must not be in front. I rode it with confidence the whole way. In turn, he wanted to lean on our inside horse (front-runner Go Joe Won), but we made him go straight and it worked from there.”

“He’s always had talent,” Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said of Defunded ($3.40). “He was just a bit aggressive in the paddock at times. But he went through the paddock well and went to the gate well. Maybe I straightened it out.”

Also, both of Defunded’s recent wins came with Maldonado in the saddle.

“Edwin said Defunded wanted to sit back at the gate and when that happens, you go the wrong way when the gate opens,” Barnes said. “Luckily the field was going slow enough that he was able to recover and get back into a good position.”

Class 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, long-term weather reports show a chance of rain.

The Hollywood Derby for 3-year-olds will be run at 11/8 miles on grass on Saturday. The Matriarch Stakes will be run next Sunday at one mile on turf for fillies and older mares.

The nominees for both races include a number of horses from the eastern tracks as well as a pair of horses who won stakes races earlier in this meeting.

Handy Dandy, trained by Peter Miller, 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 entries include five consignors, including 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 consignors are Shug McGaughey’s Celestial City (also coming off two straight wins) and Todd Pletcher’s Wit.

There are 13 nominees in Matriarch, including Bipartisanship Motion, who won the opening weekend’s Kathryn Crosby Stakes 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 his resume); 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 his last four starts), Island of Love and Rhea Moon (looking for 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 advisor, owned horses from Red Baron’s Ranch and Rancho Temescal. Cohen’s Percolate won the last race on Saturday. Cohen was the lead owner at the fall meet at Santa Anita and runs the fall meet at Del Mar.

He is survived by his wife, Roberta; children Tim, Mark and Linda and two grandchildren.


Mike Smith rode first-time incumbent Precious Baby ($52.20), the meeting’s second-longest price, to a first-race victory over 1-2 favorite Shocking Gray (Tyler Baze). Baze is now 2 years old for his last 101 turf races at Southern California tracks since the start of the Del Mar Summer Meet.

Center is a freelance writer.

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