Someone in this small, but scrappy, Los Alamitos Derby field is going to earn what has heretofore been a difficult achievement for them: a stakes victory.  And as usual in this race, Bob Baffert has the upper hand.

Defunded-Los Al Derby
Defunded owns only this maiden special weight win in five starts. But the gelding is the 3/5 favorite to win Sunday’s Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby. (Image: Ernie Belmonte)

Baffert sends out both 3/5 favorite Defunded and 5/2 second-favorite Classier into the 1 1/8-mile Los Alamitos Derby. He does so seeking his 10th Los Alamitos Derby win and fourth in a row.

The Hall of Fame trainer fields 40% of the five-horse contingent for this Grade 3, which struggled to fill its field. It was postponed from Saturday to today in an effort to wrangle more horses. Like many Los Alamitos events, the Los Alamitos Derby suffers from its relatively small purse ($150,000) and shoehorned spot on the racing calendar – after Santa Anita Park’s Winter/Spring Meet ended and before Del Mar’s Summer Meet begins.

Not to mention, the richer 3-year-old races in the East. Two weeks from now is the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park. That’s the likely destination for such sophomore A-listers as Hot Rod Charlie and Rombauer. Earlier this week, Hot Rod Charlie trainer Doug O’Neill said the Belmont Stakes runner-up is probable for the Haskell. Rombauer is 50/50, according to trainer Mike McCarthy.

Baffert’s Defunded comes in odds-on

So the Los Alamitos Derby presses on with Defunded and Classier as its favorites. Neither will be confused with such Baffert standouts in this race as 2017 winner West Coast or 2019 champion Game Winner. Defunded and Classier finished 2-3 in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita June 13. Defunded took the lead into mid-stretch, but couldn’t hold off eventual winner The Chosen Vron.

You’ll note The Chosen Vron, who enjoyed a breakout season at Santa Anita with three wins in four starts – all in stakes races — isn’t here either. According to Blood-Horse, he’s likely headed to the July 30, $175,000 Real Good Deal Stakes at Del Mar. That race is limited to California-breds.

Defunded owns a win in five starts, that coming in a March maiden special weight at Santa Anita. He finished fourth in both the Santa Anita Derby and Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs.

One stakes winner in the Los Alamitos Derby field

Both The Chosen Vron and Defunded finished 11 lengths clear of the third-place Affirmed finisher: Classier. “The Other Baffert” in this race came into that race as the 7/5 favorite, but after stumbling out of the gate, barely factored. The lightly raced Empire Maker colt owns one win in three races. That was a maiden special weight in his debut last October. He finished a non-threatening eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last November.

The only stakes winner in this field is It’s My House (6/1). He found the winner’s circle in the Turf Paradise Derby in mid-March. But when trainer Bob Hess Jr. turned him loose in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes and Grade 3 Texas Derby, it didn’t go well. He finished a well-beaten sixth in the Lexington and was pulled up on a sloppy track in the Texas Derby.

John Sadler seeks his first Los Alamitos Derby win since Accelerate brought him the 2016 event with Back Ring Luck (15/1). That gelding hasn’t hit the board in three California races. He won a maiden race at Churchill Downs under Bret Calhoun’s guidance, then took an optional claimer for trainer Al Cates at Oaklawn Park in March.

Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby/Los Alamitos

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Classier, 5/2 (Mike Smith/Bob Baffert)
  2. It’s My House, 6/1 (Edwin Maldonado/Bob Hess Jr.)
  3. Defunded, 3/5 (Abel Cedilo/Bob Baffert)
  4. Back Ring Luck 15/1 (Tyler Baze/John Sadler)
  5. Ingest, 6/1 (Juan Hernandez/Doug O’Neill)

Rounding out this field is O’Neill’s Ingest (6/1). This Square Eddie gelding is 1-for-9, with that “1” being a mile turf race. He is 0-for-3 on dirt.

The pick: Defunded. This is a simple process of elimination endeavor in a race devoid of value. Defunded is the fastest, most consistent, reasonably battle-tested horse in a field devoid of stars.

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