SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) — Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert still isn’t sure how far his talented speedster Bayern can run, but he is willing to find out.
Baffert is shipping the 3-year-old colt from California to Saratoga Race Course, where he is the 2-1 favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1 $1.25 million Travers Stakes.
Owned by Kaleem Shah, Bayern leads a field of 10 3-year-olds entered Tuesday for the 145th renewal of the Mid-Summer Derby, followed by Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist at 3-1 and Jim Dandy winner Wicked Strong at 7-2.
Bayern enters the 1 1/4-mile Travers off a dominant victory in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last month at Monmouth Park, hitting the wire 7 1/4 lengths in front with a time of 1:47.82 for 1 1/8 miles.
“The Haskell was pretty impressive. I didn’t really see any reason not to try him a little further, because it wasn’t really taxing on him,” Baffert said. “Will he take a step backward? I don’t know. I’m not totally convinced with him going a mile and a quarter, but he’s pretty fast. From what I’ve seen so far, he looks pretty good.”
Bayern made one appearance in the Triple Crown, finishing ninth out of 10 in the Preakness after encountering trouble leaving the gate. He rebounded with a 7 1/2-length victory in the Grade 2, seven-furlong Woody Stephens on June 7 at Belmont Park.
“He’s not a really big horse, but he’s fast. He’s a handy horse, and he’s got a lot of speed,” Baffert said. “You just have to let him go and what happens, happens. You can’t worry about it. When you have a horse with that kind of brilliant speed, you have to use it.”
Regular rider Martin Garcia will ride Bayern from the second post.
A lung infection knocked Tonalist from the early Triple Crown races but he returned to win the Grade 2 Peter Pan and the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes before finishing second in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga on July 27.
Joel Rosario will ride Tonalist from the No. 6 post, one spot inside Wicked Strong at No. 7.
“We’ve got Wicked Strong outside of us and he might go a little bit, too. It could be a good setup,” said Christophe Lorieul, assistant to trainer Christophe Clement. “We don’t want to be as wide as we were in the Jim Dandy.”
Wicked Strong, winner of the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in April, finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont, but was fitted with blinkers by trainer Jimmy Jerkens and turned the tables on Tonalist in the Jim Dandy.
“It definitely made him get on the bit. I don’t think it made him rank by any means,” Jerkens said. “I can’t deny that he does seem to run straighter and truer with them on, no question.”
The Travers field, from the rail out, is Commanding Curve, Bayern, Charge Now, V. E. Day, Viva Majorca, Tonalist, Wicked Strong, Kid Cruz, Ulanbator and Mr Speaker.