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Defunded Totes 125 lbs. vs. 9 Rivals in San Diego

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Maturity has equaled consistency for Defunded , who has 4 wins, a second, and a 3rd in six begins—all in graded stakes—since final October. The Bob Baffert trainee has overcome early gate points and has demonstrated the flexibility to run on or off the tempo, making him the one to beat within the $300,000 San Diego Handicap (G2) July 29 at Del Mar.

One of the few handicaps left on the Southern California stakes calendar, the San Diego will require Defunded to tote top weight of 125 pounds, including jockey Juan Hernandez, from post 6. Under the weight assignments, Defunded will concede from three to nine pounds to his nine rivals. 

The San Diego is also part of the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Dozen, which can earn credits to the top three finishers toward entry fees in the races on dirt in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships.

In the 2022 San Diego, Defunded was fractious in the gate, broke slowly, and ran seventh. But he has improved vastly in the past year. After a sixth in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2), he won the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) and Native Diver Stakes (G3), ran second in the Pegasus World Cup (G1), third in the Santa Anita Handicap (G1), and then won the Californian Stakes (G2) and Hollywood Gold Cup (G1).

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“This horse got the lead and he wasn’t going to let anybody pass him,” said Baffert after the Gold Cup. “He’s getting better, and I was happy to see him get the mile and a quarter.”

The San Diego will be a cut back in distance to 1 1/16 miles, but Baffert says Defunded’s primary Del Mar goal is the 1 1/4-mile Pacific Classic (G1) Sept. 2. Baffert trains the 5-year-old gelded son of Dialed In   for homeowners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.

Defunded’s San Diego rivals embody Royal Ship , who won the 2022 San Diego for trainer Richard Mandella. Royal Ship, now 7, ran second to Defunded in this year’s Californian. Last year, Royal Ship also finished third in the Pacific Classic to Flightline   and Baffert-trained Country Grammer . Mike Smith will pilot Royal Ship from post 2.

John Sadler trained Flightline, and he has two in the San Diego field: Tripoli , the 2021 Pacific Classic (G1) winner, and Missed the Cut , a European-raced son of Quality Road   making his second home begin. Sadler has gained the San Diego 5 instances, together with from 2017-19, as soon as with Accelerate   and twice with Catalina Cruiser  .

Tripoli, to be ridden by Tiago Pereira from put up 3, completed second within the 2021 San Diego to Express Train  prior to winning that year’s Pacific Classic. In 11 subsequent starts, Tripoli has one allowance victory and one stakes-placing. He was sixth in the 2022 San Diego, a neck ahead of Defunded.

A minor stakes winner in England, Missed the Cut ran second to fellow San Diego entrant American Admiral  in his United States debut June 11 at Santa Anita Park. Hector Berrios will pilot Missed the Cut from post 4, while Ramon Vasquez will ride American Admiral from post 5 for trainer Tim Yakteen.

Brickyard Ride , two-time winner of the 6 1/2-furlong Kona Gold Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita, has drawn the outside post with Umberto Rispoli aboard. The California-bred has won eight stakes, seven at distances of six to seven furlongs and one at a mile.

Graded winners Slow Down Andy  and Senor Buscador , Hollywood Gold Cup second Piroli , and allowance optional claiming winner Tisquantum  round out the field.

Entries: San Diego H. (G2)

Del Mar, Saturday, July 29, 2023, Race 8

Grade II1 1/16mDirt $300,0003 yo’s & up5:39 PM (local)

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