Bayern Could Have Won the Bayern Stakes

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D.S. Williamson

September 21st, 2015

While handicapping this past Saturday's Parx Racing card, I came across the Bayern Stakes. Going off as Race 7 on Saturday's 11 race card, the Bayern Stakes was run for a purse of $150,000. The conditions of  the race stated that it was for three-year-olds and up. The distance was 1 1/16 miles and the race was run over the dirt. Encryption, the 4 to 1 third choice, pressed 17 to 1 Grasshoppin before pulling away in the stretch to win by 6 1/4 lengths. Classic Giacanroll finished second while Grasshoppin held on for third. Ridden by Paco Lopez, Encryption paid $9.80, $5.00 and $3.80. Lopez had Encryption in the perfect position to pounce onto the leader and Encryption responded beautifully to Lopez's urging.

While watching at how brilliant Encryption was, I couldn't help but think that the namesake of the Bayern Stakes could have won it. Although it would have seemed strange, Bayern is perfectly designed to pick up checks in races like the Bayern Stakes. Two turns at a mile and a 16th, over a track that appeared to favor front-runners. Plus, it's not like the 2014 Breeders' Cup Classic winner doesn't need a shot of confidence in his four-year-old legs. While 2014 was a dream year for Bayern's connections, 2015 has been nothing but a nightmare.

In the Churchill Downs Handicap, a 7 furlong race over the dirt on Kentucky Derby Day, Bayern went off as the 80 cents on the dollar favorite. He not only lost but he finished 6 out of 6. Private Zone pummeled Bayern into the ground. He had nothing left before they hit the top of the stretch. Bayern's second race wasn't much better. In the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap, the Met Mile, Bayern went off as the $3.60 to 1 second choice. He finished last again after stumbling out of the gate, getting bumped, and then going 3 wide. Once again, it was Private Zone who ran Bayern into the ground.

Bayern showed some life in his third race of the year. He finished third behind Catch a Flight and Appealing Tale in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap as the $1.40 on the dollar favorite. The BC Champ dueled with Appealing Tale while on the rail before that one put away the champ. Bayern's connections were so excited about his San Diego Handicap run that they put him into the Pacific Classic. Once again, the bettors believed in the champ as Bayern went off as the second choice at $3.70 to 1. Bayern ran terribly in the P. Classic. He finished second to last. He only beat Midnight Storm while Beholder ran away with the win.

What's up with last year's Breeders' Cup Classic winner?  The problem could stem from the fact that trainer Bob Baffert put him up against tough competition in his first 2 races of the year. While in 2014 Bayern skipped the Triple Crown races and beat up on California Chrome in the Pennsylvania Derby after that won had run in all 3 Triple Crown races, Baffert threw Bayern to the wolves early in 2015. After winning the Pennsylvania Derby, Baffert worked Bayern up to the BC Classic. He was fresh.

This problem with his campaign this year is that he ran his first 2 races against one of the fastest animals in the world, Private Zone. No other equine on the planet can keep up with Private Zone. You're damned if you're a front runner that tries to go with him. You're damned if you're a front runner that doesn't try and go with him. Private Zone is that fast early.

It's interesting that Baffert trains the biggest surprise in horse racing in 2015, a Triple Crown winner in American Pharoah, and the biggest disappointment in 2015 in Bayern. I believe that Bob Baffert is the greatest trainer to ever live. He overshot with Bayern early, though. Races like the Bayern Stakes at Parx are the kind of races that Baffert should have pointed to earlier this year. He probably should have entered Bayern into the Bayern Stakes this past Saturday just put some confidence into the horse going into the BC Classic. All horses need to build confidence even BC Classic winners.