Unfunded earnings for Baffert in Native Dancer Stakes

Defunded overcame a slow start to move into contention early and then pulled away well at the top of the stretch and powered home to win Sunday’s $150,500 Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar.

The 4-year-old chestnut, owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, finished 4 3/4 lengths clear of Edwin Maldonado and returned $3.40 for the win as the 7-10 favorite in the field of six . He ran 1 1/8 miles on the main track in 1:50.12 and won a $90,000 first prize to increase his winnings to $608,100.

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“He got away from them a little bit slowly, but I wasn’t worried,” Maldonado said. “This horse must not be in front. He won from the pace forward. I rode it with confidence the whole way. On the turn, he wanted to lean on the horse inside us, but I got him to go straight and it worked out from there.

Bred in Kentucky by the stallion Dialed In, Defunded is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who won the Native Diver for the third time. It was also Baffert’s 155th stakes victory at the seaside oval, putting him 70 wins ahead of his next closest competitor.

“Edwin said Defunded wanted to sit, and when that happens and they sit when the gate opens, that’s when you’re going the wrong way,” Baffert assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “Luckily they were going pretty slow, he was able to recover and get back into a good position. He always had talent. He was just a bit aggressive in the paddock with us at times. But he came through the paddock well, he went well to the gate, so maybe we straightened him out.”

Azul Coast, a partner of Defunded, also owned by Pegram, Watson and Weitman, finished second, three quarters of a length ahead of Newgrange, owned by David Bernsen, Little Red Feather Racing and Rockingham Ranch.

Overall, Defunded returned $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. Azul Coast paid $6.60 and $4.40. Newgrange returned $3.40.

Early splits for the race were 23.52, 46.41, 1:10.34, 1:36.72 and 1:50.12.

The stakes win was the third of the meeting for Baffert and the first for Maldonado, who earned his first win in the Native Diver. Maldonado has 10 career stakes wins at Del Mar.

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