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Baffert Has Strong Duo in Gold Cup

Hollywood Gold Cup
Trainer Bob Baffert sends out a potent duo in the Hollywood Gold Cup (Photo: © Cheryl Quigley | Dreamstime.com).

Currently tied with the legendary Bald Eagle Charlie Whittingham with eight lifetime wins in the prestigious Grade I, $400,000 Hollywood Gold Cup, Bob Baffert will seek to shatter yet another American Racing standard on Monday at Santa Anita as he sends out the potent one-two combination of Defunded and Country Grammer as a field of six 3-year-olds and up go a mile and one quarter.

With the immortal Seabiscuit winning the inaugural running at Hollywood Park in 1938, the Gold Cup will be run for the 85th time on Memorial Day, Monday. Baffert, whose first Gold Cup win came with Real Quiet in 1999, notched his most recent win with Country Grammer here at Santa Anita in 2021.

A 5-year-old gelding by Dialed In, Defunded comes off a facile three length win at 1-5 in the mile and one eighth Californian on April 22 and in a tough call, gets top billing with a solid recent race to his credit. Second in last year’s Gold Cup, Defunded showed a new dimension in winning the Californian, as he hopped at the break and was thus required to settle well off the pace and rally for the win.

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On or near the early lead in most of his races, Defunded, with the Californian victory in-hand, approaches this year’s Gold Cup at the absolute top of his game. A winner of the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes at a mile and one eighth five starts back on Oct. 1, Defunded seeks his fourth graded stakes win on Monday.

Defunded Wins the Californian

Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Defunded has a win and a second place finish at a mile and one quarter and is 16-6-4-2 overall with earnings of $1,348,100.

Second two years in a row in the $20 million Saudi Cup and a winner of last year’s $6 million Dubai World Cup, Country Grammer ranks as the fifth leading Thoroughbred money earner with $14,897,320.

A narrow second two starts back in the Grade I Saudi Cup Feb. 25, Country Grammer was never a factor when beaten 13 ¾ lengths in the Group I Dubai World Cup March 25.

A smashing 4 ½ length winner of the Grade II San Antonio Stakes here three starts back on Dec. 26, Country Grammer, who was ridden in his last three starts by the departed Frankie Dettori, will get the services of Flavien Prat, who was aboard for Country Grammer’s 2021 Gold Cup victory.

Owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., Winstar Farm, LLC and Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, LLC, Country Grammer, 6-year-old full horse by Tonalist out of the Forestry mare Arabian Song, has two wins and three seconds from seven tries at a mile and one quarter and is 16-5-6-1 overall.

New Mexico-based trainer Todd Fincher will have his first Gold Cup starter as he saddles Senor Buscador, a Grade III winner going one mile at Churchill Downs four starts back on Oct. 1. Most recently a close fourth to Mike Stidham’s multiple graded stakes winning Proxy in the Grade II Oaklawn Handicap at a mile and one eighth April 22, Senor Buscador, a 5-year-old full horse by Mineshaft, will be trying a mile and one quarter for the first time.

Out of the Desert God mare Rose’s Desert, Senor Buscador was bred in Kentucky by Joe Peacock Sr. and his son, Joe Jr., who is also the owner. A winner of five of his 10 starts, he has earnings of $479,427.

The Grade 1 Gamely

Queen Goddess will take aim at a second Grade I win for trainer Michael McCarthy when she takes on six rivals in Monday’s Grade I, $400,000 Gamely Stakes going 1 1/8 miles on turf.

Queen Goddess won the GIII Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Gulfstream Park in her 5-year-old bow Jan. 28 then returned to be sixth when sent to Keeneland for the Grade I Jenny Wiley on April 15. Owned by Eclipse Thoroughbred Partner and Gary Barber, Queen Goddess has won half of her 12 starts with three additional board hits for $769,080 in earnings. Her biggest win came in the 2021 GI American Oaks, which was washed off the turf and moved to the main track.

Queen Goddess is by Empire Maker out of stakes-placed winner Royal Story, by Lemon Drop Kid. She will be ridden by eastern-based jockey Luis Saez, who comes to town after being aboard for both the Jenny Wiley and Pegasus World Cup Filly & Mare Turf.

The chief rivals to Queen Goddess look to be Macadamia and Quattroelle, who have split a pair of decisions when running 1-2 in their two most recent starts.

In the GIII Wilshire at a mile on turf here April 30, Macadamia beat Quattroelle by a length to earn her first stakes victory for top turf trainer Phil D’Amato, who also has School Dance entered in the Gamely. Owned by R Unicorn Stable, Macadamia is a 5-year-old mare by Hat Trick.

Jockey Tiago Pereira, who has ridden Macadamia in her last three starts, will again be in the irons Monday.

Prior to coming up a length short in the Wilshire, Quattroelle had reeled off consecutive graded-stakes wins for trainer Jeff Mullins. She beat Macadamia by a half-length here March 4 in the GII Buena Vista and prior to that won the GIII Megahertz, both going a mile on turf. Owned by Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal, Quattroelle has a record of 5-4-4 in 16 starts with $432,772 in earnings.

Jockey Hector Berrios, who has been aboard for Quattroelle’s last seven starts, again has the call on Monday.

The new shooter in the field is Irish-bred Viareggio, who invades from the east for trainer Brendan Walsh. A 4-year-old filly by Caravaggio, Viareggio won her only U.S. start when taking a first-level allowance at Keeneland going 1 1/16 miles on turf April 21.

Viareggio is owned by Hunter Valley Farm, Debra L. O’Connor, Mrs. Paul Shanahan and Marc Detampel. She will be ridden by Umberto Rispoli.