Brilliant Bayern

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The dust settled, the big crowds are long gone, the television cameras are mercifully off and the clocks have been turned back. Left behind at Santa Anita Park are 13 winners and scores and scores of non-winners from the 31st Breeders’ Cup World Championship, the two-day extravaganza that many times determines the season’s champions.

So now that we have it, what did the crowd of nearly 100,000 that gathered in Arcadia and millions more around the world witness?

Thirteen championship races unfolded with relatively little incident – aside from a little bumping at the start and an inquiry after the finish of the Breeders’ Cup Classic – and cleared things up for the most part.

Bayern was the Bayern of the Haskell Invitational, Pennsylvania Derby and Woody Stephens and not the Bayern of the Travers in his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The speedy son of Offlee Wild benefited from a lack of company on the lead early – an advantage that came after he veered in at the start, compromising the chances of several contenders and mainly the expected other pacesetter in the race – and all but locked up Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male honors.

Like him or not, Bayern is certainly a remarkable story.

His victory in the Classic in a three-way photo over gallant globetrotting European Toast of New York and dual classic winner California Chrome was his sixth from 10 starts in 2014. Bayern was unraced at 2 and didn’t make his debut in a 7-furlong maiden race Jan. 4 at Santa Anita for trainer Bob Baffert and owner Kaleem Shah.

Baffert and Shah hoped for success in the spring classics with the promising colt, but that stage belonged to California Chrome. Bayern only won one other race from his first five starts, in allowance company about a month after that maiden win. The first half of his season – his fifth career start – was a dismal ninth-place finish in the Preakness when he was compromised at the start and California Chrome rolled to victory.

The second half of the season was another story for Bayern. Aside from his last-place finish in the Grade 1 Travers that seemed too bad to believe, Bayern was brilliant.

Bayern was arguably the most impressive winner on the Belmont Stakes Day card as he won the 7-furlong Woody Stephens in 1:20.75. He was even better in late July when he scooped the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational, throttling Kentucky Oaks and eventual Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and sure-fire champion 3-year-old filly Untapable in the process. The Travers was the head scratcher, a race where he was favored, made the lead but tossed the anchor when the real running started around the far turn. He bounced back in the Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby, defeating the comebacking California Chrome in the process, with a signature gate-to-wire victory.

Then came the Classic.

Racing in front of an announced crowd of 61,114, Bayern did his thing on the lead, held off late challenges and capped a day filled with upsets. He returned $14.20 to win to his backers as the fourth choice in the field of 14 in the Classic.

The only other winners on the day that paid less were Judy the Beauty, who paid $8.20 as the winning post-time favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint, and Dayatthespa, who paid $13 winning as the third choice in the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf.

Bombs ruled the day otherwise, starting with Take Charge Brandi’s colossal victory at nearly 62-1 in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. The Juvenile Fillies, a race that accounts for six of Lukas’ 20 career Breeders’ Cup victories, wasn’t part of the NBC Sports Network’s telecast.

The show started with the Filly and Mare Turf, and it was New York-bred mare Dayatthespa who came away with the victory a few days before she goes through the ring at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale. The Filly and Mare Turf combined with her victory in the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland most likely locked up the title for champion turf female.

Likewise for Judy the Beauty, the lone post-time favorite to win on the day and the probable champion female sprinter off her win in the Filly and Mare Sprint. A few races later Work All Week, the fourth longest shot of 14 in the field at 19-1, probably locked up male sprinter honors with a victory in the Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Main Sequence will be the Eclipse Award winner as champion turf male after his fourth consecutive Grade 1 triumph in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Turf. The day’s other major turf winners – Bobby’s Kitten in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint and European Karakontie in the Breeders’ Cup Mile – are a little light on resumes to stake a claim.

Some might even argue the case for Flaxman Holdings’ homebred son of Aldeberan to be Horse of the Year thanks to those four Grade 1s. Untapable also owns four Grade 1 victories, so expect her to be the third Horse of the Year finalist.

Much was left cut and dry on the day, except the 2-year-old male division. American Pharoah won a pair of Grade 1s, including the Frontrunner at the expense of eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red, was scratched from the Juvenile. Texas Red was the sixth choice of 11 in the Juvenile with only a maiden victory to his credit.

The early reports from Breeders’ Cup Ltd. showed a slight increase in attendance (98,219 for the two days compared to 94,628 last year) and slight decrease in total handle. The latter is the more important barometer for the health of the event and the industry. Total common pool wagering for the two days was $151,158,815, down about 6 percent from the $160,704,877 bet last year.

NBC was consistent with its broadcast of the Breeders’ Cup, showing the races as an actual sporting competition while the races were on cable and transforming the broadcast to a disjointed prime-time show replete with celebrity selections, air time for social engagements and awkward singing from the winner’s circle.

An equally awkward moment had to be the awarding of Javier Castellano with the Bill Shoemaker Award for the event’s top jockey only to take it away after the math was checked and it was determined that John Velazquez was indeed the winner.

 

Watch the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Watch the Breeders’ Cup Turf.

 

Equibase charts for Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup races.

Equibase charts for Friday’s Breeders’ Cup races.