Bayern, coming off a huge victory in the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in his last start, dominated the $1 million Grade 1 Haskell Invitational in gate to wire fashion at Monmouth Park, establishing the three-year-old colt as a major contender for this year's Travers Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic. Kentucky Oaks winner Untapable, the post time favorite at odds of 6/5, finished a hugely disappointing fifth. Albano and Wildcat Red finished a well-beaten second and third, respectively.
Assuming that nothing was wrong with Untapable that caused her to run so poorly (and I've yet to read or hear of any kind of physical issues with the filly), then at a minimum I think we can have some serious skepticism towards this year's crop of three-year-old fillies. Untapable is still an excellent, excellent filly, and clearly the best of her peers. But she's wasn't able to duplicate her prior races in a major test against colts, and that's taking into account that this Haskell field was missing a couple of the division's heaviest of hitters in California Chrome and Shared Belief.
Turning to Bayern, I got to believe that trainer Bob Baffert is relishing the thought of Bayern using his early speed and blinkers at Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup Classic. As we've seen the last two years at the Breeders' Cup, running up near the front early is a recipe for success. And while Will Take Charge ran a huge race from off the pace in last year's Classic, I'd much rather set the pace or sit just off it at Santa Anita than try to close from the back. The Bayern that we saw today at Monmouth might be an absolute beast in the Classic. Of course, that's still over three months off, or what we call "forever" in horse racing.
Looking at this race the past few days, I was having a hard time figuring out why Baffert chose to stretch Bayern back out again after he looked oh-so-good winning the Woody Stephens. Baffert wasn't 100% sold on the Haskell himself but changed his mind after his final work:
As reported earlier in week, Baffert was very much on fence re: Haskell w/ Bayern until dazzling work Mon. Instincts told him, "go" #haskell— Jay Privman (@DRFPrivman) July 27, 2014
Perhaps the cut back in distance in the Woody Stephens helped Bayern sharpen his early speed, or perhaps he was able to build off of a successful race. Or maybe the issue is the blinkers, not the distance; he's now 4-for-4 with the Blue Blockers.
Looking at the rest of the finishers in the Haskell doesn't exactly evoke much emotion or opinions one way or another. Albano and Wildcat Red ran on well to finish second but the pack was fairly bunched at the wire behind the long-gone Bayern.
Social Inclusion, once again, decided to throw a bit of a hissy fit in the gate; I'm not sure there's much else to write about this colt other than: "Has talent; is a head-case." Seriously, what the heck is wrong with this colt? He finished third from last, ahead of only Encryption and Medal Count, and couldn't even get up to run near the leaders in the early going.
Note to self: the Belmont is a fluky, odd, one-off race run at a distance never run at again on dirt during the year... ignore its results when horses are running out of it in later races. Remembering that would have saved me even considering Medal Count, a horse I couldn't stand during the Triple Crown season because he was clearly a synthetic specialist but which I was willing to give a break in the Haskell because he final put together a decent run on dirt in the Belmont. Um, yeah, not so much.
My only saving grace of the day: There were plenty of other people that liked Medal Count that they bet him down from 8/1 on the ML to an absurd 9/2 by post time, which was enough to scare me away. At least I had the good sense not to bet him at those odds.
Below are the results, payouts, splits and internal fractions for Bayern's victory in the Haskell.
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