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Santa Anita: Defunded earns Bob Baffert another Awesome Again Stakes victory

ARCADIA — Perhaps now we know why Bob Baffert has earned four Eclipse Awards as the nation’s top trainer, won the Kentucky Derby six times and stands second all-time with 17 Breeders’ Cup victories.

He’s superstitious, making sure Lady Lucky is on his side.

Baffert is on record as saying he despises it when someone tells him before a race, “See you in the winner’s circle.” It’s not good karma.

So this past week, when he, his wife Jill and their son Bode went to the TCU-SMU college football game, Baffert decided to ensure that luck would be on his side this weekend at Santa Anita.

“The Horned Frog (TCU mascot), they say if you touch it that it’s good luck,” he said. “So I said, ‘We gotta touch it so it brings us some luck.’”

The way the Baffert-trained Defunded ran in the $300,000 Grade I Awesome Again Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, the 4-year-old gelding’s connections didn’t need any luck. The son of Dialed In went straight to the front under Edwin Maldonado, carved out fractions of 22.67, 46.70 and 1:10.89 and beat stablemate and even-money favorite Country Grammer by 1 3/4 lengths as the 5-1 fourth choice in the wagering.

Slow Down Andy, a 14-1 longshot, finished a half length behind Country Grammer in third. Final time for the 1 1/8 miles was 1:49.38.

The victory was the first Grade I win of the 39-year-old Maldonado’s career. He doesn’t ride a lot for Baffert, but when he does the two have won at more than a 30% clip.

“I think he’s a really good rider,” Baffert said. “He rides my horses really well. He rides ’em with confidence. I love to put him on speed horses. He’s so smooth out of the gate. He just gets horses to run away from there.”

Maldonado said he felt good going into the race because Baffert told him Defunded had a “great shot” to win.

“When Bob says you have a shot, you have a shot,” Maldonado said. “At this point of my career right now, I was due for a big race. It came through. What better time than the second day in Santa Anita? A good time.”

Defunded went into the Awesome Again off a pair of dull efforts. He finished seventh in the Grade II San Diego Handicap at Del Mar on July 30 and then sixth in the Grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes a month later.

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