Despite receiving steady pressure from longshot Piroli throughout the 1 1/4-mile journey, Defunded‘s class eventually shone through as the 3-5 favorite pulled away late to win the $400,500 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita on Monday.
Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Defunded set a pace of :23.89, :47.59, 1:11.83, and 1:36.27. Turning back one final challenge from Piroli in upper stretch, Defunded went on to score by one length in a time of 2:02.85.
“He wasn’t going to let anybody pass him,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s just improving, getting better, and I was happy to see him get the mile and a quarter.”
Owned by the partnership of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Defunded paid $3.20. Prioli finished second by 3 1/4 lengths over Kiss Today Goodbye, while 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup winner Country Grammer failed to threaten in finishing fourth. Senor Buscador and Yes This Time rounded out the order of finish.
Defunded was the record ninth Gold Cup winner saddled by Baffert, whose first winner in the race was the Pegram-owned champion Real Quiet in 1999. Baffert was previously tied with the late Hall of Famer Charlie Whittingham, who won eight Gold Cups from 1971 through 1987 at the race’s original home of Hollywood Park. Whittingham’s winners included Hall of Famers Ack Ack and Exceller, and champions Perrault and Ferdinand.
Since running second in the 2022 Gold Cup, Defunded has evolved into one of the nation’s leading older horses on dirt. He’s won four stakes and placed in two others since October, beginning with back-to-back victories in the Awesome Again (G1) and Native Diver (G3). Second in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) and a close third in the Santa Anita H. (G1) to start this season, Defunded prepped for the Gold Cup with a three-length score in the April 22 Californian (G2).
A five-year-old gelded son of Dialed In, Defunded was reared by the stakes-placed Wind Caper, by Touch Gold. He was bred in Kentucky by Athens Woods and sold for $210,000 at Keeneland September.
Defunded has now won seven of 17 starts with earnings of more than $1.58 million.