Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sent out two Triple Crown nominees in Thursday's 7TH race at Santa Anita, and one -- Kaleem Shah's Bayern -- flaunted his readiness to join the big leagues. Stretching out from a 3 1/4-length debut victory on January 4, the 3-5 favorite turned the one-mile, entry-level allowance into a 15-length rout. His more experienced, but quirky, stablemate Tap It Rich wound up second best after again racing erratically.
With Hall of Famer Gary Stevens back in the irons, Bayern strode to the early lead from his rail post. Tap It Rich, last seen virtually bolting and easing home 11th in the CashCall Futurity, added headgear with a cup only over his right eye. But he still proved difficult to handle, veering in and sawing off the slow-starting Brother Soldier.
A lit-up Brother Soldier sped ahead to engage Bayern through an opening quarter in :24. The headstrong Tap It Rich also dragged Hall of Famer Mike Smith forward, once more spinning wide into the first turn, and finally found his spot in a stalking third on the outside.
Although Brother Soldier raced in tandem with Bayern, and even poked his head in front briefly down the backstretch, the favorite was unruffled by the company. Bayern stayed within his own comfort zone until drawing off on cue. He regained the advantage through a half in :47 3/5, and spurted five lengths clear through six furlongs in 1:11 3/5.
The $320,000 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May purchase poured it on down the stretch. Bayern opened up by 11 lengths at the eighth-pole, clocking the seven-furlong split in 1:23 2/5, and padded his margin inside the final furlong.
Bayern turned it into a "charade," track announcer Trevor Denman enthused. The Offlee Wild colt crossed the wire in majestic isolation and finished the mile in 1:35 3/5.
Baffert hailed the performance as reminiscent of Bodemeister's 9 1/4-length maiden tour de force over this track and trip two years ago. Bodemeister later dominated the Arkansas Derby and beat all bar I'll Have Another in the Kentucky Derby.
Like Bodemeister, Bayern was stepping up from a sprint to a mile. But Bodemeister was runner-up in his 5 1/2-furlong debut, while Bayern got the job done sprinting seven furlongs at first asking. Now two-for-two, Bayern has bankrolled $68,400.
"This is what you want to see and it gets your hopes up," Baffert said. "I would just make sure he comes out of it and give him plenty of time. He ran fast."
"I don't think I was quite test driving him," Stevens said, "but when I did ask him to pick it up at the eighth-pole, he exploded.
"I didn't want to get into a speed duel and taking the blinkers off was a big help today. He was listening to what I did and was relaxed down the backside and he was relaxed throughout."
Tap It Rich was easily best of the rest by 5 3/4 lengths. Brother Soldier checked in third, trailed by Flagman and Baranof. Papa's Paisley was scratched.
Bred by Helen Alexander in Kentucky, Bayern is a May 3 foal entitled to progress with maturity. The dark bay is out of the Thunder Gulch mare Alittlebitearly, herself a half-sister to Group 3-winning sire Bertolini; stakes winner Alchemilla; and stakes heroine Amelia, who is in turn the dam of Grade 3 victor Kindergarden Kid, stakes queen Assateague and He's Had Enough, runner-up in the 2012 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Bayern's second dam, Grade 2 diva Aquilegia, is a full sister to champion and noted broodmare Althea. Aside from producing four stakes winners, led by Japanese champion Yamanin Paradise, Althea ranks as the ancestress of Grade 1 heroine Balletto and U.A.E. Horse of the Year Festival of Light, among others. Aquilegia and Althea are also full sisters to Grade 2 winner Aishah, whose offspring include Grade 1 victress Aldiza and Grade 2 scorer Atelier.
Bayern's third dam is Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee. Her other progeny include Grade 1 heroes Ali Oop and Ketoh as well as multiple Grade 2 victor Twining and multiple Grade 3 winner Native Courier. Among her many outstanding descendants is Group 1 star and influential sire Green Desert.
Earlier in the 2ND race on the program, Eblouissante, a half-sister to Zenyatta who sold for $2.1 million at the recent Keeneland November sale, returned to the races with a runner-up finish against allowance rivals.
The five-year-old daughter of Bernardini was making her first start since July and left the starting gate as the 3-5 favorite among five opponents. She raced closer than expected to a contested pace before leading the way into the stretch run of the 1 1/16-mile event, but gave way grudgingly late to Macha, who proved best by 1 1/4 lengths.
"She just got a little tired at the end," said trainer John Shirreffs, who also conditioned Zenyatta. "Mike (Smith) said she put herself in the race a little early. She was a little keen and she didn't finish."
Eblouissante now shows a career record of 4-2-1-0. She opened her racing career with two straight wins, capturing a maiden special weight in November 2012 before taking an optional claiming event in January 2013. The dark bay was never factor when finishing last among six runners in the Shuvee Handicap last summer.