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Sep 26, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Options aplenty for Bayern

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - One win can mean the difference between being part of a large pack or standing alone with offers for multiple possibilities.

Last week's victory in the Pennsylvania Derby has opened the door for Bayern to race in any number of events in this year's Breeders' Cup World Championships.

Trained by Bob Baffert for Kaleem Shah, Bayern basically blew away the field in the 1 1/8-mile PA Derby, including Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes champ California Chrome, who was the 9-10 favorite in the eight-horse field.

"That was just a powerful performance," Baffert said from California about his colt's 5 3/4-length front running victory. "Martin (jockey Martin Garcia) hustled to get away from California Chrome. When California Chrome was pinned in there I knew it was going be tough for California Chrome. He was the target - we weren't the target. When Bayern runs like that, nobody's going to beat him. Like in the Haskell."

Bayern won the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park two months earlier in similar fashion and registered a 7 1/2-length win at odds of 9-2. He went off as the 7-2 second choice in the PA Derby.

"If you look at him, he doesn't look like a horse that's going to run a mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter; he's sort of a compact horse. He must have a big heart and a big set of lungs and he carries his speed," Baffert noted.

"After the Haskell, I was going to wait for this race, but he came back good and it's the Travers and he was going to be the speed. I wasn't going to go and afterward I said, 'Why didn't I stick to my original plans?'"

The colt did set the pace in the Travers as the 2-1 favorite, but faded to last in the 10-horse field. He certainly rebounded in the PA Derby, posting his third straight win by more than five lengths.

Now it's time for the 3-year-old to take on older horses and that will be in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita on Nov. 1. But which race will Baffert and Shah decide to run the colt?

"He could run in three races," the Hall of Fame trainer said, "the Sprint, the (Dirt) Mile or the Classic. That's how versatile he is. That's how good he is. He's a pretty good horse if he can do all that, right? All the great ones can do that, though."

The Sprint will be over six furlongs with plenty of other speed horses in the field. It's not unusual for a late running horse to win the Sprint because there's so much speed in the race.

The Breeders' Cup Classic, the ultimate event in the World Championships, is 1 1/4 miles, the same distance as the Travers at Saratoga. It seems a little far for Bayern who needs the lead and will be pressed by other horses in the $5 million Classic.

So, of the three options put out by Baffert, the Dirt Mile would appear to be his colt's best race. Won last year by Goldencents, the Dirt Mile has proven to be an exceptional event as has the Breeders' Cup Mile, which is conducted on grass.

The Dirt Mile is a race Bayern can handle with his speed. He could either set the pace or lay near the lead with enough in reserve to power through the stretch.

Options are available for Bayern, one of those welcome problems his connections are happy to have.

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