Del Mar: Defunded wins for Baffert in Native Diver Stakes

Del Mar: Defunded wins for Baffert in Native Diver Stakes
Photo: Del Mar Thoroughbred Club / Benoit Photo

Defunded overcame a slow start to move into contention early and then drew well clear at the top of the stretch and cruised home in winning Sunday’s Grade 3, $150,500 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar.

The 4-year-old chestnut gelding owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman finished 4 3/4 lengths to the good under Edwin Maldonado and returned $3.40 for the win as the 7-10 favorite in the field of six. He ran the 1 1/8 miles on the main track in 1:50.12 and picked up a first prize of $90,000 to increase his earnings mark to $608,100.

Click here for Del Mar entries and results.

“He came away from their a little bit slow, but I wasn’t concerned,” Maldonado said. “This horse doesn’t need to be in front. He’s won from off the pace before. I rode him with confidence all the way. On the turn he wanted to lean on the horse inside us, but I got him going straight, and it all worked out from there.”

A Kentucky-bred by the stallion Dialed In, Defunded is trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who won the Native Diver for the third time. It was also Baffert’s 155th stakes victory at the seaside oval, which put him 70 wins ahead of his next closest competitor.

“Edwin said Defunded was kind of wanting to sit back, and when that happens and they sit back when the gate opens, then you’re going the wrong way,” Baffert’s assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “Luckily they were going slow enough he was able to recover and get back in a good position. He’s always had talent. It’s just that he’s been a little aggressive in the paddock on us at times. But he went through the paddock good, he went to the gate good, so maybe we’ve got him straightened out.”

Azul Coast, a stablemate of Defunded also owned by Pegram, Watson and Weitman, finished second, three-quarters of a length ahead of Newgrange, owned by David Bernsen, Little Red Feather Racing and Rockingham Ranch.

Across the board, Defunded returned $3.40, $2.40 and $2.10. Azul Coast paid $6.60 and $4.40. Newgrange returned $3.40.

The early fractions for the race were 23.52, 46.41, 1:10.34, 1:36.72 and 1:50.12.

The stakes win was the third of the meet for Baffert and the first for Maldonado, who scored his first Native Diver victory. Maldonado has 10 career stakes wins at Del Mar.

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