Bayern won Saturday's $5-million Breeders' Cup Classic wire to wire, but had to survive a stewards inquiry over the way jockey Martin Garcia allowed the son of Offlee Wild to veer inwardly at the start, bumping into race favorite Shared Belief and causing a chain reaction that affected several horses.
Toast of New York finished second, beaten a nose, with Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome a neck behind the runner-up in third. Shared Belief, who was slammed at the start of the mile and a quarter race when Bayern veered in, finished fourth, another 3 1/2 lengths back as the favorite. Time of the race was 1:59.88 on a fast track.
Stewards ruled that while Bayern did cause interference, it happened at a point in the race that it did not alter the order of finish, thus letting the order of finish stand.
The victory for the Kaleem Shah-owned colt gave trainer Bob Baffert his 11th career win in a Breeders' Cup race but his first in the Classic.
Bayern broke from the No. 7 post position, sharply bumping Shared Belief to his immediate inside and causing a chain reaction of several horses, including Moreno, who was expected to be among those contesting the pace. Moreno, who broke outwardly, also got bumped in the opening furlong when Toast of New York came over from his No. 9 post position. Shared Belief had added trouble as he ran up on horses' heels and took up sharply in the run down the stretch for the first time.
Bayern shot to the lead, setting fractions of :23.12 for the opening quarter mile and :46.49 for the half. Toast of New York was in closest pursuit, with California Chrome pressing the pace on the outside. Shared Belief was several lengths farther back, in traffic.
Bayern clicked off a six-furlong fraction of 1:10.22 while still racing comfortably on the lead, then set sail for the wire after a mile in 1:34.16. Toast of New York and jockey Jamie Spencer ranged up to his outside, but every time it looked as though he would get to Bayern, Garcia got more from him, under left-handed urging.
Following the top four across the wire were Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, who was last in the early going and 11th at the quarter pole, then Candy Boy in sixth. The top six finishers were 3-year-olds. Next was 5-year-old Cigar Street, Zivo, Imperative, Footbridge, V.E. Day, Prayer for Relief, Majestic Harbor and Moreno last of the 14 runners.
After the race, Baffert said he didn't think stewards would disqualify Bayern for the incident at the start. “I knew it happened the first jump and there was not a lot of contact there,” Baffert said, adding, “Drama seems to follow me wherever I go.
“Well, when he broke in like that, I said, ‘Oh.' And then he got up right away and he was gone. But right away they cleared, but somebody, the 9 (Toast of New York) came over and just crushed everybody. There was probably more going on. The 9 was doing more crushing back there than we did. Ours was the first initial start. Because I thought they were looking at the 9 horse when he came over. That's what I thought they were looking at.”
The win for Bayern was his sixth in 10 career starts and his first race against older competition. The 3-year-old produced from the Thunder Gulch mare Alittlebitearly, previously won the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby by 5 3/4 lengths and the G1 Haskell Invitational by 7 1/4 lengths. An earlier victory came in the G2 Woody Stephens, and the colt was also disqualified from a first-place finish in the G3 Derby Trial.
This was the first Breeders' Cup victory for a horse bred by Helen Alexander, who owns MIddlebrook Farm in Kentucky and is descended from the King Ranch Farm of Texas. Bayern traces back in her female line to broodmare of the year Courtly Dee and is from the same family as horses like Althea and Arch, among others.
Offlee Wild, recently sold to stand in Turkey, is a son of Wild Again, winner of the inaugural Breeders' Cup Classic in 1984 and who also had to withstand a claim of foul to get the victory.
Baffert purchased Bayern using the fictitious name Ed Savant at the Fasig-TIpton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training for $320,000, from the consignment of Eddie Woods, agent. The colt sold while named Tahrir Square.
Shah said after the race the victory was an instant cure for a sciatica nerve condition. “I literally could not walk most of the week,” he said. “In fact, I didn't even come down to the paddock for the race because I literally could not walk. But I don't know what happened as soon as he won. Like it just was a major transformation.”
Shah said he thinks the win – Bayern's third in a race worth $1 million or more – puts his horse in the driver's seat for Horse of the Year. “To me, certainly he's gone cross country like beating the best, and certainly on the world stage, he's overcome everything and won today. In my mind certainly he deserves Horse of the Year and 3‑year‑old champion.
Shah said Bayern “definitely” will stay in training in 2015. “He'll race as a 4‑year‑old, 5‑year‑old, and 6‑year‑old, if he can,” the owner said.
Ninety minutes after the Classic had been run, California Horse Racing Board stewards issued this statement:
Following the running of the 12th race today (Breeders' Cup Classic), we posted the inquiry sign to examine an incident at the start (Dirt, 1¼ miles). Involved in the incident were the winner #7 Bayern (M. Garcia) and several horses to his inside — #6 Shared Belief (M. Smith) and #4 Moreno (J. Castellano). Film review revealed that #7 Bayern broke in sharply, bumped #6 Shared Belief, causing a chain reaction with several other horses to his inside, including #4 Moreno, who also broke out slightly. #6 Shared Belief finished fourth, 3½ lengths behind the third place finisher while #4 Moreno finished far behind the leaders. After speaking with the patrol judges and riders involved, it was our unanimous decision that pursuant to CHRB Rule 1699, that the incident occurred in a part of the race where the horses interfered with were not cost the opportunity to place where they were reasonably expected to finish.
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