Embellishing Bob, stepping up into graded stakes company off a maiden win, won the $176,700 Derby Trial (gr. III) on the disqualification of Bayern under the lights on the opening night of the Churchill Downs spring meet April 26. (VIDEO)
Pacesetting Bayern, the 4-5 favorite in the field of eight 3-year-olds, battled Embellishing Bob throughout the one-turn mile test but bumped repeatedly before prevailing by a nose. Myositis Dan was a flying third on the far outside, beaten by a nose for second in a remarkably tight finish.
But after a lengthy review stewards disqualified Bayern for floating out late in the drive under left-handed urging by Rosie Napravnik. Embellishing Bob, at 9-2 odds, was elevated to first while the Bob Baffert trainee Bayern was placed second.
The final time was 1:36.73 on a fast track.
Martin Cherry's Kentucky homebred Embellishing Bob was ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr. for trainer Steve Margolis. The fast-improving son of Northern Afleet out of the Defrere mare Kirsche had graduated over maidens in his third start March 29 going six furlongs at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.
"We were happy with his last race at the Fair Grounds," Margolis said. "And it was like Mr. Cherry said, let's take a shot. He's been doing really good and I knew the one-turn mile wasn't out of his reach."
Bayern, dropping in class off a tiring third in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) April 12, was wearing blinkers in his first start under Napravnik. Breaking from the inside post, the highly regarded son of Offlee Wild set solid fractions of :23.23, :46.62, and 1:11.19 while shadowed by Embellishing Bob. Bayern drifted out rounding the turn and was well off the rail coming into the stretch as the two-front-runners bumped several times.
The favorite appeared to straighten out leaving the furlong mark but veered out noticeably when Napravnik switched again to the left-handed stick, and they carried Embellishing Bob out as they approached the wire. Myositis Dan, winding up a big charge from sixth at the quarter pole, arrived at the line five wide to just miss under Joe Rocco Jr.
Hernandez said Bayern was "getting out the whole way."
"There didn't look to be a whole lot of speed in the race, so I just rode it the way it came up," he added of his plan on Embellishing Bob. "He's a young horse, but he's talented and we tried to take advantage of that tonight. We asked him to run hard and he did. He showed just how good he is."
Napravnik countered, "It wasn't any more me than him (Hernandez). I was surprised he claimed on me. I thought we won it fair. My horse ran hard and ran well."
Margolis said he would like to keep Embellishing Bob at seven furlongs to a mile and will take a look at the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) on the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) program in New York for the colt's next start.
"We'll just have to kick it around but he's a nice colt and he's run good every time we've run him," the trainer said. "He did get bumped legitimately by (Baffert's) horse with his hind end and so we dug in and ran a big race."
Baffert did not dispute the stewards' call, noting that Bayern "ran well, but he's still a young horse. We need to get him back, a little bit off the lead. He got a little tired at the end. The track is demanding tonight. He got a lot out of it."
He said the Preakness (gr. I) May 17 remains a possibility for the colt.
Embellishing Bob's second win in four starts boosted the bay colt's earnings to $143,017. He paid $11.60, $4.60, and $3.40. Bayern returned $3 and $2.40 while rounding out a $32.20 exacta. Myositis Dan paid $3.80 to show.
Laddie Boy was 1 3/4 lengths away in fourth, followed by Friendswith K Mill, Spot, Matador, and Big Sugar Soda. Bitters 'n Bourbon was scratched, as was Chitu, who is expected to run for Baffert in the Kentucky Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) May 3.
A Derby Trial victory would have made Bayern among the 20 Derby probables based on points, but as a result of the DQ he is 21st on the list.