Bayern faces toughest test in San Felipe
By Jeff Frank
(Sports Network) -
The undefeated Bayern makes his stakes debut on Saturday in the San Felipe at Santa Anita Park. The world will find out if he is the real deal or just a flash in the pan.
Trained by Bob Baffert, Bayern strolled to an easy victory in his seven- furlong debut on Jan. 4 and then walloped a bunch of allowance horses by 15 lengths in his second career start.
The son of Offlee Wild got away with an easy 24-second first quarter, but he still had to fight for the lead with Brother Soldier. After putting away his early rival, Bayern stretched out his lead to five lengths, then 10 and finally 15 lengths at the wire. His time for the two-turn mile was 1:35 3/5, which included a pair of 24-second quarter-miles to end his triumphant score.
The San Felipe offers a new challenge as he faces a couple of stakes winners in Midnight Hawk and California Chrome. Two other colts who might pose problems for Bayern are Kristo and Schoolofhardrocks.
Besides Bayern, Baffert also trains Midnight Hawk, winner of the Sham Stakes back in January. The gray colt ran third to Candy Boy in his most recent start, the Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
Both Bayern and Midnight Hawk like to run close to the pace, so it will be interesting to see how the former handles his first stakes test. Even though Bayern has never been worse than second by a head in the early going, he is not necessarily a one-trick pony. So if Midnight Hawk, Kristo and even Sawyer's Hill try for the lead up the backstretch, don't be surprised if Bayern is a couple lengths off the front end.
The San Felipe should tell Baffert all he needs to know about his budding superstar. If the colt can handle being slightly off the pace and still motor his way to the top, then it is on to the Santa Anita Derby, where he will likely face Candy Boy to see which horse is the "Best in the West."
As for the other horses mentioned earlier, Kristo has been working much more efficiently for the San Felipe than he was for the Sham. Still, winning a stakes race at 1 1/16 miles might be asking a lot for John Sadler-trained 3-year-old.
Midnight Hawk also has a tough task ahead of him breaking from post 9 with all the speed to his inside. He did not show anything special in the Robert B. Lewis and it is doubtful he will revert back to his earlier form on Saturday.
California Chrome comes into the San Felipe on a two-race winning streak. Nevertheless, both came against California-breds. He did defeat Tamarando with ease in his last, but he will be over bet due to that victory.
Schoolofhardrocks has just one start under his belt all the way back in August, but it was a thing of beauty. The son of Rock Hard Ten broke his maiden by 1 1/2 lengths after trailing by almost 10 down the backstretch.
Horses by Rock Hard Ten usually need a few races to be effective, so winning first time out was an impressive feat - one that had the colt entered in the Frontrunner Stakes next time out.
Unfortunately, Schoolofhardrocks had to be scratched from the race and was unseen until late January when he worked three furlongs in 36 seconds. The San Felipe is a tough spot to return, but trainer David Hofmans is obviously high on his 3-year-old colt.
San Felipe - 1) Bayern 2) Schoolofhardrocks 3) California Chrome
CONQUEST TITAN LEAS A FIELD OF 10 IN THE TAMPA BAY DERBY
It has been a while since the Tampa Bay Derby winner has brought home the Roses. Street Sense pulled it off seven years ago, becoming the one and only horse to do so. Will Conquest Titan follow in his footsteps?
The Mark Casse colt began his career as a speedball, but it led him to a last- place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Casse then changed tactics and the son of Birdstone went from last to first to win an allowance race at Churchill Downs last November. The second-place finisher that day was General a Rod, who went on to win the Gulfstream Park Derby before winding up second in the Fountain of Youth.
Following his second lifetime victory, Conquest Titan returned in the Holy Bull Stakes and once again closed from far back to finish second to Cairo Prince.
Gulfstream Park is a difficult track to close ground and that is why Conquest Titan is at Tampa Bay Downs. The only thing that will prevent a victory is a slow pace. However, with some cheap speed in the form of Ring Weekend, Coltimus Prime and Tuscan Getaway, along with Surfing U S A and Vinceremos, there should be a legitimate pace in front of Conquest Titan.
Others to look out for in the Grade II event are the aforementioned Surfing U S A (second to Top Billing in an allowance race in late January) and Vinceremos (Sam F. Davis winner) as well as East Hall (fourth in the Fountain of Youth), Cousin Stephen (third in the Sam F. Davis) and Hy Kodiak Warrior (third to Commissioner and Top Billing in an allowance race in early January).
Tampa Bay Derby - 1) Conquest Titan 2) Hy Kodiak Warrior 3) Surfing U S A