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Santa Anita Handicap: Defunded Looks Like the One to Beat Among a Field of 11 Older Males

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated March 1, 2023
15 min read

Santa Anita Handicap Odds and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the Santa Anita Handicap at Santa Anita Park!

PP

Horse

Odds

Jockey

Trainer

1

THERE GOES HARVARD

15/1

BET HERE

K Kimura

M McCarthy

2

PARNELLI

15/1

BET HERE

V Espinoza

J Shirreffs

3

NEWGRANGE

4/1

BET HERE

L Dettori

P D’Amato

4

STILLETO BOY

8/1

BET HERE

K Desormeaux

E Moger Jr

5

DEFUNDED

3/1

BET HERE

J J Hernandez

B Baffert

6

WARRANT

5/1

BET HERE

F Prat

B Cox

7

HEYWOODS BEACH

20/1

BET HERE

R Vasquez

J Sadler

8

HOPPER

8/1

BET HERE

M Smith

B Baffert

9

SCARLET FUSION

20/1

BET HERE

E Maldonado

J Sharp

10

TISQUANTUM

20/1

BET HERE

H Berrios

R Quinonez

11

PROXY

5/1

BET HERE

J Velazquez

M Stidham

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Santa Anita Handicap Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

$10 Exacta Box - Warrant, Defunded, and Proxy = $60 

If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Warrant (5/1).    

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Santa Anita Handicap Predictions

Second last time in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup, the Bob Baffert-trained Defunded looks like the one to beat among a field of 11 older males set to contest the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap on Saturday.

A gelded son of Dialed In, he earned his first career stakes win in Grade 1 Awesome Again three starts back at Santa Anita. 

The likely favorite in the 1 1/4-mile historic affair followed that up with a romping win in the Grade 3 Native Diver at Del Mar before traveling to Florida for his solid showing in his most recent start. 

Chief among his challengers in the race affectionately known as the Big Cap will be a horse formerly trained by Baffert, Newgrange.

A two-time graded stakes winner for his old barn, the 4-year-old son of Violence scored his first stakes win for his new trainer Phil D’Amato five weeks ago with a one-length win in the Grade 2 San Pasqual.

Two other horses who should get plenty of wagering support in the $500,000 feature are Warrant and Proxy.

Warrant was the narrow runner-up in this race last year for trainer Brad Cox. The 5-year-old son of Constitution comes off a facile allowance win at Fair Grounds in his first start in six months.

Proxy, meanwhile, disappointed when fifth in the Pegasus World Cup last time, but in the race before that he was a determined winner of the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs.

Santa Anita Handicap Predictions and Race Analysis

Defunded 

Looking at his recent form, it is easy to pick out this son of Dialed In as a deserving favorite in Saturday’s historic Big Cap. 

A strong winner of a Grade 1 race over the track three starts back, he followed that up with two very good efforts in winning the Native Diver and running second in the Pegasus World Cup. Having shown flashes of talent early in his career, it seems he has put it all together for trainer Bob Baffert.

Liking to be on or near the early lead is his style, but that could be tricky in this race with a good deal of early pace types. He is the horse to beat in this deep field, but will have to overcome what promises to be a solid early pace in the 10-furlong affair.

Newgrange

A former Baffert runner, this son of Violence looks to be finding his best stride for trainer Phil D’Amato. He has looked good in winning two of his last three and both of those wins came over the Santa Anita track. 

In between the wins, though, he was well beaten by Defunded in the Native Diver at Del Mar. He deserves another shot at the favorite after his nice win last time in the Grade 2 San Pasqual. 

It’s hard to knock his record, but never having been beyond 9-furlongs and running in a race with a solid early pace could be tough. The three-time graded stakes winner is an obvious threat, but at the distance, I like a few others better on Saturday.

Warrant

Narrowly beaten in a spirited stretch duel in this race last year, this Brad Cox-trained runner looks to be a serious threat again in 2023. Although he never found the winner’s circle in five starts last year, he was a consistent 4-year-old who never ran a bad race. 

With a recent victory to build his confidence in his return race, he should be ready for this test. A grandson of Tapit, if last year’s Big Cap is any indication, it looks like he appreciates the 10-furlong distance. 

He has tactical speed, but he is comfortable sitting off the pace if it is contested, which should be a good quality in this race with plenty of speed. He is the top pick.

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Proxy

Trained by Mike Stidham, this well-bred son of Tapit should enjoy all the speed entered in this year’s Big Cap. As one of the only horses who prefers to come from off the pace, it looks like he will get an excellent pace set-up on Saturday. 

Although he has won 4-of-14 in his career, he still needs to prove that he can power by good horses in the lane. He also has never been 10-furlongs before. 

Still, he has run enough good races to believe he fits with this group and considering the pace scenario, he looks to be a strong contender. Coming off the Pegasus World Cup, he should also have some attractive odds in his first race in California. He is a big threat on Saturday.

Stilleto Boy

Often a bridesmaid, rarely a bride, this gelded son of Shackleford comes in off a nice performance in the Pegasus World Cup, where he set a contested pace and held well for his second straight third in the rich race. 

He can be tactical with his speed, but he does seem to be best when allowed to run free early. With plenty of speed signed on for this race, it looks like a tough spot for a horse who prefers to get a share of the prize than actually win. 

The earner of over $1.4 million should never be completely discounted, but I like several others better in this spot.

Hopper

The second from the Baffert barn, this son of Declaration of War is another one who likes to be out there on the early lead. Very lightly raced, this will be only his fifth-lifetime start. 

After an unsuccessful turf debut, only one horse has beaten him on dirt. That came last time when Newgrange wore him down in the San Pasqual. That was his first start in seven months, though, so he has every right to improve off the effort. 

Still, with the other speed in this race, I am not sure he is a good bet to last the full ten furlongs. He is a talented threat, however, who could be tough if allowed to relax early.

There Goes Harvard

A Grade 1 winner going 10 furlongs at Santa Anita before, this son of Will Take Charge will need that form from last spring’s Gold Cup to be a serious threat in this one. Unfortunately, he has only run twice since that big win and neither were very good. 

Perhaps he needed the last one, though, and returning to a dirt course he likes, he could be ready to challenge with a good effort on Saturday. 

He also has been working very well for trainer Michael McCarthy. He deserves to be a longshot in the Big Cap, but I certainly could see him pop up with a good one and the odds should be attractive.

Parnelli

Never having broken through in seven career tries in stakes races, this son of Quality Road will try to make his first stakes win a big one on Saturday. 

While the stakes record is poor, he does come in off his best race to date when he finished only a length behind Newgrange when third in the San Pasqual. 

He was close to the early pace in that one and hung around pretty well. Adding another furlong on Saturday probably does not help his chances to be strong in the late stages. I like others better.

Heywoods Beach

Trained by John Sadler, this son of Speightstown has found his most success running long. Both of his stakes victories have come while going 12 furlongs. 

It’s fine to like a distance heading into the Big Cap, but often those longer races do not attract the same class of horse. This seems to be true for this 6-year-old who has not looked as good when facing graded stakes types going shorter than 1 1/2 miles. 

Most recently a well beaten third behind Country Grammer and Stilleto Boy, I suspect that he will find this deep field a little out of his comfort zone on Saturday.

Scarlet Fusion

Trained by Joe Sharp, this 5-year-old son of Curlin has been on the improve of late. He won a solid allowance race on the dirt at Churchill Downs three starts back, and most recently he won the Grade 3 John B. Connally Turf Cup on soft turf. 

Both of those wins came at 12 furlongs, so you do have to wonder if he is a bit of a long-distance specialist. Still, he clearly is running his best races lately. 

Still, the level of competition gap seems pretty wide as he ships west for this Grade 1 affair. I like too many others better to be excited for his chances.

Tisquantum

This 6-year-old gelding has only run six career times. Clearly staying healthy has been an issue for the son of Constitution. Perhaps finally finding a string of good health, this will be his fourth race since last November. 

He’s won his last two nicely, both of which came at a mile. He will not only stretch out to 10 furlongs for this one, but he’ll also find by far his toughest competition to date. 

Despite the good form of late for trainer Rolando Quinonez, he looks up against it taking on this field in his stakes debut.

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How to Watch the Santa Anita Handicap

  • What: Santa Anita Handicap (Grade 1)

  • Location: Santa Anita

  • Time: Saturday, March 4 -- 8:30 pm Eastern time

  • How to Watch: FanDuel TV

  • Purse: $500,000

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Image for Brian Zipse

AUTHOR

Brian Zipse

281 Articles

Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.

Email: [email protected]

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