• Bet Against Bayern

    POSTED Feb 14, 2014

    There’s a hot new Kentucky Derby candidate out there and his name is Bayern.

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    Trained by Bob Baffert, Bayern shoved his way into the Derby picture with an eye-catching 15-length score in an allowance race at Santa Anita Park on Feb. 13. The son of Offlee Wild covered the one-mile distance in 1:35.77 that day and earned a 99 Brisnet speed figure for his effort.

    Needless to say, racing fans were all abuzz after the race — chief among them, Bob Baffert.

    “This is what you want to see and it gets your hopes up,” the three-time Derby-winning conditioner said. “I would just make sure he comes out of it and give him plenty of time. He ran fast.”

    Look, I respect Baffert and I can certainly understand fans getting excited about a horse that won by such an impressive margin, but Bayern is no Derby candidate — at least not at this point.

    No, I’m not invoking the “Curse of Apollo” when I say that, although the fact that no horse has won the Run for the Roses sans a two-year-old campaign since Apollo in 1882 — the year outlaw Jesse James was killed — hardly inspires confidence.

    Nah, my biggest concern regarding Bayern is, oddly enough, that “great” last race. Simply put, I don’t think it was as good as it seems. In fact, here’s what jockey Gary Stevens said about it:

    “I don’t think I was quite test-driving him but when I did ask him to pick it up at the eighth pole, he exploded,” Stevens told Jennie Rees of the Courier-Journal.  “I didn’t want to get into a speed duel and taking the blinkers off was a big help today.  He was listening to what I did and was relaxed down the backside and he was relaxed throughout.”

    Now, to many I’m sure, that simply sounds like a jockey thoroughly impressed with the speed and professionalism of his mount. To me, however, something stuck out like Bruce Jenner at a men’s retreat: Stevens said Bayern “was relaxed throughout.”

    Although I’m sure the veteran jockey meant this as a compliment, to me, it was a huge negative based on what the race chart and my pace figures tell me. The fact is, Bayern ran evenly throughout on Feb. 13, which, as Huey Mahl pointed out in “The Race is Pace,” is the easiest kind of trip a horse can get.

    As you can see, Bayern was relaxed — so relaxed that I wouldn’t be surprised if he caught a few Z’s during the race. Of course, his catnap was aided by Tap It Rich and Brother Soldier, both of whom had trouble at the gate — and were anything but relaxed in the early going.

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    And speaking of Tap It Rich, what does it say about the quality of the field when the second choice in the race — at 6-5, no less — was coming off a 52 ½-length drubbing at the hands of another Derby contender, Shared Belief?

    To me, it says that Bayern is a fraud — as phony as a sasquatch with a $3 bill (who’s ever heard of a $3 bill?). He may develop into something special, only time will tell. But, right now, he’s Verrazano II and I wouldn’t touch him in the Derby with a 10 ½-foot pole.
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