The last weekend in July saw the commencement of the “second season” for 3-year-olds, with the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) at Saratoga Race Course and the William Hill Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I) at Monmouth Park. In both cases the race went to colts rebounding from unsuccessful tilts at classic glory.
The victory at the Spa July 26 went to Wicked Strong, who finished fourth as second choice in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and fourth again in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). The following day at the Jersey shore Bayern, who beat only one home in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after a troubled early trip, was allowed to dominate from the start, and drew clear in the stretch by 7 1/4 lengths.
While the Haskell has carried the money and the prestige, the Jim Dandy has served as the more reliable prep for the “Midsummer Derby” Travers Stakes (gr. I). The last horse to complete the Haskell/Travers double was Point Given in 2001, but in the same period Medaglia d'Oro , Flower Alley , Bernardini , Street Sense , Stay Thirsty , and Alpha (in a dead heat) have taken the Jim Dandy and Travers.
Bayern’s participation in the Travers will at least be accompanied by a couple of positive precedents, as he is conditioned by Point Given’s trainer, Bob Baffert, and is out of a mare by Point Given’s sire, Thunder Gulch. The branch of the female line that produced Bayern is generally identified by Bayern’s third dam, 1983 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee.
A daughter of Never Bend, Courtly Dee produced eight stakes winners, among them the champion juvenile filly Althea; Sapling Stakes (gr. I) captor Ali Oop; and the once-defeated multiple graded stakes winner and sire Twining. She has a legion of high-class descendants, among them the group and grade I winners Balletto, Acoma, Arch , Aldiza, Azzaam, No Reason, One and Only, Green Desert, and Vespa. Among those mentioned Arch and Green Desert have both gone on to become major sires, with Green Desert exerting a major classic influence in Europe this year appearing in the male line of Investec Epsom Oaks (Eng-I) winner Taghrooda and of Idee Deutsches Derby (Ger-I) victor Sea The Moon; as broodmare sire of Bracelet, who took the Darley Irish Oaks (Ire-I); and as grandsire of the dam of Australia, who was successful in both the Investec Epsom Derby (Eng-I) and Dubai Duty Free Irish Derbys (Ire-I).
Bayern’s granddam, Aquilegia, a sister to Althea, was a less precocious and speedy performer than her sister and did her best work on the turf, where she captured the New York Handicap (gr. IIT) and Black Helen Handicap (gr. IIIT), and was multiple graded stakes-placed. Three of Aquilegia’s offspring won stakes, headed by the speedy Danzig colt Bertolini, successful in the TNT International Aviation July Stakes (Eng-III), and also runner-up in three group I events. Another of Aquilegia’s black-type winners, the Dixieland Band mare, Amelia, is the dam of Assateague, who took the Dr. James Penny Memorial Handicap (gr. IIIT), and of the graded stakes-winning and grade I-placed Kindergarden Kid.
Bayern’s sire, Offlee Wild , a son of Wild Again, also ran in a Triple Crown event finishing unplaced in the 2003 Kentucky Derby. Although he’d won the Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) and finished third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) that year, he actually turned out to be better as an older horse, winning the Massachusetts Handicap (gr. II) over Funny Cide at 4 and the Suburban (gr. I) and Excelsior Breeders’ Cup (gr. III) handicaps at 5.
He was retired to stand at Darley Kentucky—as was Wicked Strong’s sire Hard Spun , prior to his 2014 sojourn to Japan—and came up with four stakes winners in his first crop, among them the champion 2-year-old filly She Be Wild. There was only one black-type winner in his second crop, but he was represented by graded winners Hogy and Acting Naughty in his third. Offlee Wild’s crop that was conceived on the heels of She Be Wild’s championship campaign has already produced four stakes winners of which Bayern is clearly the best. Offlee Wild stood at Pin Oak Lane Farm in Pennsylvania in 2014, and looked a real bargain at a fee of $4,000.
By a 10-furlong grade I winner out of a mare by a Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner, with a second dam who was a graded stakes winner at 10 furlongs, Bayern illustrates the difficulties of interpreting modern U.S. pedigrees. One might have thought he is bred to run as far as he is likely to be asked, but after the Preakness he dropped back to the seven furlongs of the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) and gained his first stakes win with a 7 1/2-length victory in a time little more than a half second off the track record. The impression here, unless he should be left alone on the lead, is he will find the 10 furlongs of the Travers a real stretch.