Trainer Bob Baffert plans to run Defunded and Hopper in the Grade 1, $500,000 Santa Anita Handicap going 1 1/4 miles March 4.
Defunded most recently was second in the Pegasus World Cup (G1) at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 28, and Hopper is exiting a second in the San Pasqual (G2) on the same day at Santa Anita.
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Defunded’s only previous try at 10 furlongs was a second-place finish in the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) at Santa Anita here last spring. In the Pegasus World Cup, the 5-year-old Dialed In gelding attended the pace throughout before being overtaken in mid-stretch by Art Collector, who would prevail by 4 1/2 lengths.
“He showed up,” Baffert said Thursday. “It was a tough ship. It’s really hard to get there now … it took them like 20 hours. But he ran well. Top of the stretch it looked like we were in good shape, but he just got beat.”
Defunded has a record of 14: 5-4-1 and has banked $1,168,600 for owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman.
Hopper’s effort in the 1 1/8-mile San Pasqual came after a 7 1/2-month layoff. Off since winning the Affirmed (G3) on June 11, Hopper led throughout until being run down late by Newgrange to lose by a length. Newgrange is also ticketed to the Big ‘Cap, according to trainer Phil D’Amato.
Baffert is expecting to see an improved Hopper in the Big ‘Cap.
“(The San Pasqual) was his first out and I threw him at a mile and an eighth. Newgrange ran a big race,” Baffert said. “I think with that race under his belly it really tightened him up. It should be a good spot for him.”
A 4-year-old colt by Declaration of War, Hopper is owned by Lanni Bloodstock, Madaket Stables and SF Racing. He broke his maiden in his second start at Santa Anita last May before the Affirmed.