05/14/2014 2:20PM

Baffert has one bullet left - Bayern

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Barbara D. Livingston
Bob Baffert will race Bayern without blinkers in the Preakness.

BALTIMORE – Bob Baffert began the year with 3-year-old prospects like Hoppertunity, Indianapolis, Midnight Hawk, and Tap It Rich. But when they kicked the gate for the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, his lone representative was Chitu, and he’s down to just one runner, Bayern, for the Preakness Stakes here Saturday at Pimlico.

Baffert’s spring odyssey is a stark reminder of just how difficult it is for a trainer to get to these races, let alone win them. He had 18 horses nominated to the Triple Crown, and while not all of those horses looked like legitimate Derby prospects, horses like Indianapolis and Midnight Hawk were on everyone’s shortlist early in the year. Todd Pletcher had the most nominations to the Triple Crown, 41, ended up with four runners in the Derby, did not win, and has no representatives in the Preakness.

Meanwhile, Art Sherman had one nominee, California Chrome, who won the Derby. All you need is one. The right one.

Bayern looked like a rising star earlier this year, when he won his first two starts, both at Santa Anita, including a dazzling 15-length victory against allowance runners Feb. 13. He was expected to run in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in his next start and would have faced California Chrome, but he had a training setback and has been trying to get back to that good form ever since.

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After missing the Lewis, Bayern was sent to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby, in which he finished third going 1 1/8 miles.

“He wasn’t totally ready for that race,” Baffert said. “He showed a lot of guts to hang on.”

Bayern turned back to a one-turn mile for the Derby Trial, and though he crossed the wire first, he was disqualified to second for interference.

“I was a little bit disappointed in the Derby Trial,” Baffert said this week. “I thought he would run away from those horses. The track was deep and slow that night. He made the lead, but he didn’t go on with it. That’s why I’m taking the blinkers off him for the Preakness. I think he can sit. He can run at a horse.”

In the Preakness, in which 10 were entered Wednesday, Bayern will be trying to stretch his speed to 1 3/16 miles. Because of his recent setbacks, though, he is entering the Preakness as a longshot. This will be the first time in his career that he will not be favored. He was odds-on in three of his first four races and never has been higher than 8-5. He’ll be a lot higher Saturday.

Baffert said he considered a slightly softer spot for Bayern but ultimately decided to go for it because “it’s the Preakness,” a race he has won five times.

“California Chrome is obviously the horse to beat,” Baffert said. “He’s a good horse, and he’s in the zone. He races close to the lead, so he stays out of trouble. That gives him a big edge.

“Bayern isn’t a Belmont-type of a horse, so if we’re going to run in a Triple Crown race, this is it. Does he have distance limitations, or will he go on? That’s what we’re going to find out in the Preakness. We’re taking a shot.”

A little more than six months ago, Baffert looked like he had the best horse in this crop in New Year’s Day, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in only his third start. But he was subsequently injured and retired.

Indianapolis started off with great promise but had to be taken out of training and only recently has returned to the track. He’s “a few weeks away” from a workout, Baffert said.

Tap It Rich needed time to get over mental and physical issues. He had surgery for a testicle that did not descend. “I think that was bothering him,” Baffert said.

Midnight Hawk is being freshened after finding the increasing distances of the Derby preps too high a hurdle to clear. Hoppertunity developed quickly but was hurt just before the Derby and was scratched. He underwent surgery and will get time off to heal and mature, Baffert said.

Chitu overachieved to get to the Derby and is soon to return to California after remaining at Churchill Downs following the Derby.

Now, for Baffert, it’s down to Bayern.

“It’s all about being right at the right time,” Baffert said.

Gaye Goodwin 8 months ago
Blinkers off worked so well for Pletcher with Palace Malice in the Derby last year. This article is an example of how the "Triple Crown" trail is a meat grinder for three year old TBs in the hands of people who want to be there at any cost.
Walter Brown Jr. 8 months ago
Pletcher did blinkers on Palace Malice in 2013 Derby and yes Baffert just has to be there &will enter anything into a Triple Crown Race. Owners line up to give Bob a chance to ruin good 3yo's. Smh
Jeff Wright 8 months ago
Blinkers off. Ignore its power at your own risk. Good luck Bob and Rosie!
Uwe Bartels 8 months ago
rosie you can do this good luck
Amy Hurley 8 months ago
Good luck to Bayern and the connections. It's a long shot, and I don't really see it happening, but I'd love to see Bob get his 6th Preakness and Rosie become the first female to win a Preakness. Mr. Shah has put a lot of money and energy into racing and it would be nice for him to win a classic, as well.
Steve Ulen 8 months ago
Not the most ideal race for Bayern. Too much early speed for what is going to turn out to be a one-turn miler...
Jeff Wright 8 months ago
Bob incase you're reading this...I love you. Please confirm that you love me too by winning the BC Classic with Hoppertunity. Love Always, Believe in the Hopp
danny boy 8 months ago
Bayern is a nice horse, but I just don't see him making much noise in this race. On paper he should have won the Derby trial for fun, and yet he struggled to stay up by a nose and ultimately got placed second against a less than stellar cast. He showed a lot of promise in his first two starts, but at this point in the game it looks like a mile is more of what he wants.
John Jp 8 months ago
Be interesting to see when this Baffert horse breaks down. Eventually all of his do. Should be thrown out with Assmussen and Lukas.
Ann 8 months ago
Silver Charm never broke down, nor did Real Quiet, so 'all' does not apply.
Russell Guthrie 8 months ago
Better have Bayern underneath on your tickets....5 time Preakness winning trainer and Rosie and the odds he's gonna be??? Gotta have him in there...
Jeff Wright 8 months ago
Blinkers off does it. 12-1 would be a gift and people will hesitate using him underneath afraid he's gonna quit, ton of value in all the slots.. Shhhhh;)
avlamal 8 months ago
bayern is cannon fodder in the pace meltdown glad hes running to set it up more for the kid kid cruz has them over a barrel
Jeff Wright 8 months ago
really counting on that pace meltdown. quick doesnt mean meltdown. he isnt good enough to beat these and needs the top 6 to come with sub par efforts. bayern blinks off he'll be rating, chrome will be rating and expect Si to be more relaxed. No meltdowns. save your money bud trying to help you. Ride on curlin also sitting on a big effort and a much better colt than Kid.