Just like that – in an outstanding wire-to-wire effort devoid of drama – Bayern gave trainer Bob Baffert his seventh victory in the $1 million William Hill Haskell Invitational (G1) at Monmouth Park Sunday, running off to a seven and a quarter-length score.
Kaleem Shah Inc.'s Bayern, who was expected to use his speed early, did not disappoint. He broke like a shot from the gate, cruised down the backstretch in command of the situation, and then turned on the afterburners in the stretch as he left the field gasping in his wake.
Albano, who had been running close throughout, held stoutly for second, one length before Wildcat Red, who also was close to the pace throughout.
The filly Untapable, who went off the 7-5 favorite against the colts, never fired and finished fifth in the field of nine.
Mutuel handle hit $15,952,611 for the day, third highest Haskell Day total in history, and $3.4 million above last year.
And for the multitude of Bob Baffert fans in the crowd of 35,983 who watched in warm, sunny weather, all was well in the racing world. The California-based trainer won his first Haskell with Point Given in 2001, repeated with War Emblem in 2002 and Roman Ruler in 2005, and has now won the race in four of the last five years. Lookin at Lucky (2010), Coil (2011) and Paynter (2012) three-peated, and Baffert's only miss of the decade came last year when Power Broker finished second. This was the third Haskell win in three tries for jockey Garcia.
Dennis Drazin, advisor to Darby Development LLC, operators of Monmouth Park, counted Haskell Day 2014 a rousing success.
“We couldn't be more pleased on all fronts – the fans, the employees, and especially the horses,” Drazin said. “This will be a day long remembered.
“It was a very enthusiastic crowd and you could not escape the buzz throughout the facility. The handle was outstanding, the racing was great, and for the most part, the weather cooperated.”
Bayern raced the mile and an eighth over a fast main track in 1:47 4/5 and paid $11.40, $7.20 and $5 across the board. He topped a $97 exacta with Albano, who paid $10.80 to place and $6.60 to show. Wildcat Red paid $5.40 to show.
Bayern, a 3-year-old son of Offlee Wild – Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch, has used his gift of speed to win four of his seven lifetime starts. He was disqualified from victory in the Derby Trial in April. Before coming to the Haskell, Bayern drew off to an easy score in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont. But that race was at seven furlongs, and Bayern had never been tested at nine furlongs before today.
Baffert, who watched the race on television from his California base, was positively gleeful in his telephone interview after the race.
“It's so exciting,” Baffert bubbled. “I was hoping he'd be able to get the mile and an eighth. Gary Stevens, after he rode him last time, said 'you have to let him route again. He'll just keep going.'
“We tried to slow him down in the past, but now we know we just have to utilize his speed. I didn't think he'd do it as devastating as that. It looks like he has it all together now.
“The only concern is that he needs to break,” Baffert said. There is no Plan B.”
Baffert, who had announced a possible post-Haskell route for Bayern – sprinting at the Spa — was in the midst of changing his mind after the race.
“Before this, I said we were going to the King's Bishop (7f at Saratoga), but I don't think I'll back him up after this,” Baffert said. “I'm so happy for (owner) Kaleem Shah. He has such a passion for racing.”
Jockey Martin Garcia, who won the Haskell in 2010 with Lookin at Lucky and in 2011 with Coil, tied Craig Perret's record for most wins in Monmouth's signature race with Sunday's victory.
“That was real impressive,” the jockey said. “Obviously, we were going to the lead. I wasn't surprised at how well he ran. He was cruising out there the whole way. He was able to set the fractions on his terms, and when we turned for home, he took off.
“Going into the race,” Garcia said, “I wasn't worried about the filly or anyone. I knew I was on a really good horse. He showed how good he was today.”
Steve Asmussen, trainer of Untapable, said, “She didn't get away well at all, and was never in position to win the race the way the track was playing today.”
Rosie Napravnik, who rode the filly, said “The horse next to us (Social Inclusion) acted up in the gate, so she got a little fussy and didn't get away well. We had the widest trip of everybody; she ran a hell of a race and ran as hard as she could.”
Bayern, who earned a winner's share of $600,000 for his first Grade 1 score, ran his record to 4-1-1 in seven starts and upped his career bankroll to $1,077,680.
View the full Equibase chart here.
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