Returning to sprinting after finishing off the board in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Bayern drew off in the stretch to post an easy victory in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) June 7 at Belmont Park (VIDEO).
In completing the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds in a sizzling 1:20.75, 9-1 shot Bayern earned the first stakes victory of his career. Six weeks ago the son of Offlee Wild reached the wire first in the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs but was placed second behind Embellishing Bob for interference in the stretch.
Kaleem Shah's Bayern left nothing to doubt on Saturday, posting a 7 1/2-length victory. Bayern raced near the lead early, then took over from Pure Sensation, who showed the way through an opening quarter mile in :21.96. Bayern led Pure Sensation and Rontos Racing Stable's Social Inclusion , who finished third in the Preakness and was sent off as the even-money favorite, through a half-mile in :44.20. With Racing Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens returning to ride Bayern from Rosie Napravnik, the dark bay or brown colt found another gear in the stretch, opening a four-length advantage at the eighth pole and completing the final furlong in 11.58 seconds.
"That was a powerhouse performance. He had a bad experience in the gate in the Preakness. Jimmy Barnes (assistant to trainer Bob Baffert) and Bob's crew did a great job getting him ready by schooling, schooling, schooling him," Stevens said.
"Then when I saw we drew the one hole, I thought 'Oh no, he's going to be standing in there a long time,' so I was worried. But he made a perfect break and when I asked him, he turned in what was an awesome performance today. He really deserved that win."
In deep stretch, Lazaro Barrera Stakes (gr. III) winner Top Fortitude showed that recent win at Santa Anita Park was no fluke as the Triple AAA Ranch Arizona homebred rallied to get second by a head, edging Social Inclusion, who held third.
Bayern returned $20.40 to win, $9.60 to place, and $5 to show. Top Fortitude, sent off at 23-1, paid $22.40 to place and $10 to show; Social Inclusion returned $2.50 to show. Kobe's Back finished fourth.
"We were up against it here because we drew the one hole," Barnes said. "He left the gate running, set some serious fractions, and finished very strong."
Bayern is the first stakes winner for his Thunder Gulch mare Alittlebitearly, who has produced three winners from as many starters.