Updated on 03/09/2014 1:20AM

Santa Anita: Bayern's injury alters San Felipe Stakes

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Bayern, who has won both of his starts easily, will miss Saturday's Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes with a suspected foot bruise.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Bayern, the morning-line favorite for the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita, will be scratched from the race because of a suspected foot bruise, trainer Bob Baffert said Thursday.

Baffert said Bayern had a routine gallop Thursday morning, but his exercise rider suspected something amiss in a front foot, and, after an examination, Baffert surmised he “may have a deep bruise” on the inside of a quarter.

“The timing’s pretty frustrating,” Baffert said. “You’ve got to look up and say, ‘Not this week.’ He’s going to be all right. He’s still in the picture.”

The picture for the San Felipe, however, changes dramatically with his withdrawal. Ten were entered in the 1 1/16-mile race, so nine were still in as of Thursday afternoon.

Bayern was the early favorite for the race because of an overpowering win against allowance runners last time out, his second win from as many starts.

His absence also takes Gary Stevens out of the race. Stevens turned 51 on Thursday. He has won the Kentucky Derby three times.

“The day after the Breeders’ Cup, even probably before that, I start looking for my 3-year-old for the Derby,” Stevens said this week on a national teleconference. “I’m pretty loaded now.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Stevens is currently riding two of the top California-based prospects for the May 3 Kentucky Derby in Bayern and Candy Boy, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner who is awaiting the Santa Anita Derby next month. If Bayern ends up going in the Santa Anita Derby, Stevens will have a difficult choice.

Bayern, owned by Kaleem Shah, has scored two dominant victories in his two starts. After beating maidens sprinting Jan. 4, he stretched out against allowance company Feb. 13 and crushed his rivals by 15 lengths while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 98.

With him out, California Chrome and Midnight Hawk become the most prominent runners in the race.

The San Felipe offers 85 qualifying points – 50 for first, 20 for second, 10 for third, and 5 for fourth – under the system Churchill Downs uses to determine the field for the Kentucky Derby should more than 20 horses enter.

[Santa Anita Handicap: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

There are three members of Daily Racing Form’s Derby Watch top 20 still in the San Felipe – California Chrome, Kristo, and Midnight Hawk.
Midnight Hawk, like Bayern trained by Baffert, was third behind Candy Boy in the Lewis. Prior to that, he beat Kristo in the Sham Stakes. Baffert said Midnight Hawk “didn’t like” an attempt at being rated in the Lewis.

In the San Felipe, “We’re going to let him break, let him run a little bit,” Baffert said. “He’s not as manageable in his races as we’d like. He needs to come off the bit. He fights a little too much.”

California Chrome comes off powerful victory in the California Cup Derby on Jan. 25, a race whose form was franked when runner-up Tamarando won the El Camino Real Derby in his next start. This will be only the second try in graded-stakes company for California Chrome, who was a troubled sixth last summer in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and seems a far superior performer now.

Kristo was second to Midnight Hawk in the Sham, his first start in 2 1/2 months. With a four-horse field and just one significant rival, the Sham turned into a match race, and Kristo had the unenviable position of being inside Midnight Hawk. Breaking from post 7 in a 10-horse field Saturday should provide a truer test of where Kristo stacks up among the local Derby contenders.

Schoolofhardrocks was an impressive winner of his lone start going two turns last summer at Del Mar. This is an ambitious spot for a comeback, but private clockers have been impressed with his series of works for his return.

[DRF Live: Get live reports and handicapping insights from DRF writers and handicappers this Saturday]

Home Run Kitten, Recanted, Rprettyboyfloyd, Sawyer’s Hill, and Unstoppable Colby all will be longshots.

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen