Entering Saturday's GI Breeders' Cup Classic, there were questions surrounding the ability of Kaleem Shah's Bayern (Offlee Wild) to see out the 10-furlong distance while dealing with the likes of his talented and accomplished fellow 3-year-olds Shared Belief (Candy Ride), Tonalist (Tapit) and dual Classic winner California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit), as well as an anticipated speed duel with the veteran Moreno (Ghostzapper).
Bayern was in front with a circuit to travel and Toast of New York (Thewayyouare), the final ride in the distinguished career of Jamie Spencer, pushed him along. Talking horse Cigar Street (Street Sense) tucked in just behind that duo, while California Chrome was in touch three wide around the clubhouse turn and Tonalist at the back of the strung-out field. Bayern was allowed to strut his stuff through six panels in a strong 1:10.22 over a track that was carrying speed all afternoon, but Toast of New York and California Chrome, still three off the inside, were coming with their runs in earnest three furlongs from home. Bayern cut the corner nicely into the stretch, but for a few strides it looked like Toast of New York, a gallant runner-up to Shared Belief in the GI Pacific Classic August 24, was going to cause the upset. California Chrome remained in with a shot, but he hung slightly, and Bayern was able to outgun Toast of New York to the wire.
Following the race, the major question to answer was whether the result would be allowed to stand after Bayern, the 6-1 fourth choice, broke away at approximately a 45-degree angle, broadsiding Shared Belief and pushing him several feet to his left and causing a chain reaction of interference. After several minutes, the stewards allowed the result to stand, a decision that provided trainer Bob Baffert with an elusive first win in the Classic and one which evoked spirited debate across social media. "It's an amazing feeling, a dream come true," he explained. "To compete in these races, especially this day, is a big thing for everyone. In this situation, you don't take away when a horse likes to run on the lead. We let him run, and if anything happens, you make adjustments. In this race, he broke really good and I took advantage." On the inquiry: "I was pretty sure that I didn't do anything. In racing, these things happen," he stated.
Bob Baffert had previously started 10 horses in the Classic, with runner-up efforts from Silver Charm (1998) and Game On Dude (2011) the closest he'd gone to winning. That all changed in the span of two minutes and an inquiry Saturday afternoon. "This has been so long in the making," he commented. "When Bayern hit the wire, I was just like 'it's been so many years in the making' and to finally get it done it was just so great, and with my wife, Jill, here, and my son Bode."
Extract from Thoroughbred Daily News/The Guardian (p)