Bayern will make his stakes debut in the San Felipe Stakes.

Bayern will make his stakes debut in the San Felipe Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Big Step for Bayern in San Felipe

Undefeated colt will make his stakes debut for Bob Baffert following allowance romp.

When a young horse breaks his maiden impressively first time out, it's a pretty good indication you have a runner. When they defeat winners stretching out in their next start, you begin thinking you have a stakes horse. But when they beat winners by 15 lengths and do it pretty much in hand, well, then, you start wondering just how special a horse you really have.

That's what Bob Baffert is looking forward to finding out when Bayern  makes his stakes debut in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park March 8.

The son of Offlee Wild, owned by Kaleem Shah, has seen his Beyer Speed Figures go from a 92 to a 98, and based on how he dominated a solid field of allowance horses, there is no telling what this colt's ceiling is.

"I was pretty impressed with his last race," Baffert said. "We thought he was doing well going into the race, and he just got out there and kept going. He was stretching out to two turns and the way he did it was pretty exciting. The San Felipe is going to be a pretty tough race and we'll learn more about him. Gary (Stevens) has worked him a couple of times and is very happy with him. Basically you just try to find out their best style and not get in the way. Gary is a great horseman and when he comes back from a race or a work, he learns something about them."

It is natural to start comparing Bayern to Baffert's brilliant, front-running Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Bodemeister , who won his second career start in February, finished second in the San Felipe, and then romped by 9 1/2 lengths in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I).

"They both showed brilliance, but Bayern has a little bit different style in that he's more manageable and not as one-dimensional as Bodemeister," Baffert said. "The only reason Bayern went to the lead in his last start is because no one else wanted it. After his next start, we'll know more about him. Sometimes the second time going long they can go backwards and then come back and run big, so we need to get this one out of the way.

"Basically, I want to see a (top-three) finish and a good effort and how he handles coming back off a big race. From here on out, the preps are so important and mean so much more. We just want to see him going the right way and move forward. You just hope you can keep them healthy and not look forward too much. I don't want to jinx myself."

Stevens, who rode Bayern in his first two races, has been very impressed with the colt's past two workouts, including his five-furlong drill in :59 3/5 March 4.

"In his last start, I was just test driving him in the backstretch, and since that race he's shown me more in his last two works than he did in the race," Stevens said. "He has a great mind and is going in the right direction, and I'm expecting a big performance."

Baffert also will run Midnight Hawk in the San Felipe and is expecting an improved performance from the Sham Stakes (gr. III) winner following his third-place finish in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II). The son of Midnight Lute worked a half in :49 2/5 March 4.

"He's coming into the race really well," Baffert said. "This is his last chance to show me something. He backed off a step off his win in the Sham, but he's still a pretty good horse. We've been working with him to get him to be more manageable. He got rank last time and didn't have a lot of kick turning for home. When he learns to settle, he will be more effective."

Baffert said his undefeated San Pedro Stakes winner Indianapolis had a setback and was sick after the race, so he backed off on his training. He's just been jogging, and Baffert said he's made no plans yet and is not going to rush him.

As for Robert B. Lewis runner-up Chitu , he could go in the Rebel Stakes (gr. II), Sunland Derby (gr. III), or the Wood Memorial (gr. I). Possible for the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) or one of several other spots is Hoppertunity, a troubled fourth in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II).