WOODY STEPHENS STAKES | PURSE: $300,000 | 3-YEAR-OLDS | GRADE 2 | 7 FURLONGS
Returning to sprinting after finishing off the board in the Preakness Stakes, Bayern drew off in the stretch to post an easy victory in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes Saturday, June 7 at Belmont Park.
In completing the seven-furlong race for 3-year-olds in 1:20.75, Bayern earned the first stakes victory of his career. Six weeks ago the son of Offlee Wild reached the wire first in the Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs but was placed second behind Embellishing Bob for interference in the stretch.
Kaleem Shah's Bayern left nothing to doubt on Saturday, posting a 7 ½-length victory. Bayern raced near the lead early and led Pure Sensation and Rontos Racing Stable's Social Inclusion, who finished third in the Preakness and was sent off as the even-money favorite, through a half-mile in :44.20 seconds. With Racing Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens on board Bayern for the first time, he found another gear in the stretch, completing the final furlong in :12.58 seconds.
"That was a powerhouse performance. He had a bad experience in the gate in the Preakness. Jimmy Barnes [assistant to trainer Bob Baffert] and Bob's crew did a great job getting him ready by schooling, schooling, schooling him," Stevens said. "Then when I saw we drew the one hole, I thought 'Oh no, he's going to be standing in there a long time,' so I was worried. But he made a perfect break and when I asked him, he turned in what was an awesome performance today. He really deserved that win."
In deep stretch, Lazaro Barrera Stakes winner Top Fortitude showed that recent win at Santa Anita Park was no fluke as the Triple AAA Ranch homebred rallied to get second, edging Social Inclusion, who held third.
Bayern returned $20.40 to win, $9.60 to place, and $5 to show. Top Fortitude, sent off at 23-1, paid $22.40 to place and $10 to show; Social Inclusion returned $2.50 to show. Kobe's Back finished fourth.
"We were up against it here because we drew the one hole," Barnes said. "He left the gate running, set some serious fractions, and finished very strong."
Bayern is the first stakes winner for his Thunder Gulch mare Alittlebitearly, who has produced three winners from as many starters.