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Breeders' Cup 2017

HRN Original Blog:
A New York State of Racing

Questions Surround Bayern in the Travers

Let me begin this article by saying that I was completely wrong about the outcome of this year’s Haskell. I did not think that the Bayern was capable of getting the mile and an eighth distance of the Monmouth Park headline event.

Granted, I was very impressed with his performance in the seven furlong Woody Stephens at Belmont Park on June 7th, but I, like others, assumed that the cut back in distance was critical to Bayern’s dazzling New York win and 107 Beyer Speed Figure.

That Belmont victory did not erase from my mind the way that the Bob Baffert trainee had struggled when going two turns in the Arkansas Derby, the Derby Trial, and the Preakness. At Oaklawn Park Bayern led the race after going three-quarters in 1:12.39 but ended up finishing third beaten two lengths. Two weeks later at Churchill Downs, Bayern again led after six furlongs that went in 1:11.19. He was ahead when the horses crossed the wire, but a very tired Bayern was bearing out in the stretch and ended up being disqualified to second for floating Embellishing Bob out wide. In the Preakness he was never in contention.

As we all know Bayern followed his great performance in the Woody Stephens with an even better race in the Haskell. His 1:47.82 time, the seven length win in gate to wire fashion, coupled with another 107 BSF gave Bayern one of the year’s most eye-catching victories.

Thus, we are left with what I will call the Bayern Question. The Bayern Question is a rather complex query that racing fans and handicappers will have to grapple with as the Travers approaches.

What kind of performance does Bayern have in store for racing fans in the mile and a quarter Travers? Can he parcel out his speed for another furlong over the Saratoga Race Course? Whose 2013 Midsummer Derby performance will Bayern’s resemble more:  Moreno or Verrazano?

As we know last year the speedy front-runner Moreno made a valiant effort in the Travers by setting the pace, battling with Orb first and then with Will Take Charge, eventually falling to the D. Wayne Lukas charge by a very narrow margin of a nose. Thus, the Bayern Question:  Can the California colt parcel out his speed and have a legitimate shot to win the Travers in the same way that Moreno battled to the wire?

Verrazano came out of the 2013 Haskell with an extremely impressive nine-length victory, but he could not come close to duplicating that effort in the Travers. Historically, Haskell winners have not faired very well in the 10-furlong Saratoga derby. In the past 10 years the Haskell winners Coil, Bluegrass Cat, Roman Ruler, and Lion Heart also failed to win the Travers. Amongst them Lion Heart tried to win the Travers on the front end as he had done a few weeks earlier at Monmouth Park. Again we need to ask the Bayern Question, will the Kaleem Shah runner join the list of recent runners who could not duplicate their New Jersey effort?

When the Travers field is finalized we will have better information at hand to try and answer the Bayern Question, but ultimately we have to wait until the horses load into the Saratoga starting gate on Saturday, August 23rd. At that point it will be up to Bayern to answer all of the questions. 


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 Meet Matt Shifman 

Matt Shifman has been on the Horse Racing Nation staff since 2011 and currently serves as Assistant Editor. Matt covers Aqueduct, Belmont Park, Monmouth Park, and Saratoga in his two HRN blogs Racing at the Jersey Shore and New York State of Racing.


Matt’s articles and tweets frequently appear in the America’s Best Racing weekly Notebook. In 2012 he became a voter in the NTRA weekly polls for the Top Thoroughbred and Top Three-Year-Old.


The best way to get to know Matt is to check out some of his favorite articles from the past couple years.

• Preakness Interview with Trainer Todd Pletcher

• Kentucky Derby 2016 Handicapping Tips from A to Z


• Edison: the Travels of a Million Dollar Colt 

• A Kentucky Derby Field with Just 14 Horses

• What is the Best Kentucky Derby Running Style?



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