Bayern wins Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose
ARCADIA, California (AP) — Bayern won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose from English-trained challenger Toast of New York, surviving a stewards’ inquiry prompted by multiple horses bumping near the start of Saturday’s race.
Trainer Bob Baffert had to wait, along with a crowd of 61,114 at Santa Anita, to confirm that he had finally won North America’s richest race after failing in 12 previous tries.
“It’s been so long waiting, I was like, ‘Lord, you can’t take it away from me now,’” said Baffert, who has won just about every other big race in the sport, including three Kentucky Derbies. “I couldn’t breathe the last 20 yards.”
The two-day world championships concluded with trainer Chad Brown claiming three victories, while trainer Wesley Ward had two. European horses earned just one victory, with French-trained 30-1 shot Karakontie in the $2 million Mile.
“To be here and enjoy the week like we did and walk away with three winners is a dream come true,” said Brown, who is based in New York.
The Mile surprise was one of four upsets Saturday. The biggest came in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, with Take Charge Brandi kicking off the nine Cup races with a 61-1 upset for 79-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Jockey Mike Smith extended his record for Cup victories to 21 with a win in the Filly & Mare Sprint with Judy the Beauty — the only favorite to win Saturday.
Three of four favorites won on opening day Friday.
In the Classic, Bayern ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:59.88 and paid $14.20, $8 and $5.20 at 6-1 odds.
Toast of New York returned $18 and $10.80. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome was another neck back in third and paid $5.40 to show.
Shared Belief, the 5-2 favorite co-owned by sports talk host Jim Rome, was knocked off his game at the start and finished fourth, ending his undefeated streak at seven.
“I think it cost me the race,” Smith said of the early tangle. “I was never able to get comfortable after getting hit at the break.”
The inquiry involved the first four finishers, with their numbers flashing for several minutes on the toteboard as the stewards reviewed the video.
The start of the race was a wild one, with some of the horses in the full field of 14 bounced into each other like bumper cars at the county fair.
Luckily, no one appeared to get hurt.
Bayern, with Martin Garcia aboard, came over sharply on Shared Belief out of the starting gate. That forced Shared Belief into Moreno, with Travers winner V.E. Day getting squeezed.
“Mike said he got hit really hard and that slowed him down, then the whole field came over on him and Moreno was getting out on him,” said Alex Solis II, co-owner of Shared Belief.
Garcia said: “There was nothing I could do. I corrected right away.”
Several strides later, as the horses were scrambling to settle in for the run past the grandstand, UAE Derby winner Toast of New York smacked Whitney winner Moreno.
“The nine horse, Toast of New York, probably came over and did more damage 100 yards out of the gate,” Baffert said. “The nine was doing more crushing back there than we did.”
Out of the chaos, Bayern emerged with the lead, appropriate since he is usually the fastest horse away from the gate.
“If you try to slow him down, he’s just not effective,” Baffert said. “If he was a football player, he’d be in the SEC. I mean, he is fast.”
Candy Boy was sixth, followed by Cigar Street, Zivo, Imperative and Footbridge. V.E. Day was 11th, followed by Prayer for Relief, Majestic Harbor and Moreno.
Bayern’s two previous biggest wins of the year were in the Haskell Invitational and Pennsylvania Derby. He missed the Kentucky Derby and finished ninth in the Preakness. He turned the corner with an impressive win in the Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard, starting a run of four stakes wins in his last five starts.
Bayern’s victory likely denies California Chrome champion 3-year-old honors, and places him squarely in the running for Horse of the Year.
“We don’t vote, but we’re proud of our horse,” Baffert said. “He came through on the big day, and that’s what matters. That’s why they call it the championship racing.”