Bayern wins Haskell Invitational
OCEANPORT, N.J. - Bob Baffert owns the Haskell, and Sunday he didn't even have to show up to get another trophy.
For a record seventh time, the platinum-haired Hall of Fame trainer won Monmouth Park's $1-million showpiece, as Bayern led all the way with Martin Garcia in a 7 1/4-length runaway. The star filly Untapable received nearly all of the hype and most of the money (7-5 favorite) but never looked like a winner, plodding home fifth for Rosie Napravnik.
Baffert has four Haskell victories in the past five years, missing only last year, a second with Power Broker. Garcia has teamed with him for three wins, tying jockey Craig Perret's record.
Baffert, 61, has limited his travel since suffering a heart attack in March 2012. "I was hoping he'd be able to get a mile and an eighth," he said by phone from California. "I didn't think he'd do it as devastating as that."
Untapable broke sixth in her debut against males and couldn't get into contention, racing wide in midpack throughout on a speed-favoring track. "The horse next to us acted up in the gate, and that upset my filly a little bit," Napravnik said. "Then she didn't get away very well and we had the widest trip of anyone. It was the most I ever had to ask her."
Trainer Steve Asmussen knew Untapable was in trouble when she was sixth, four-wide, on the first turn. "The way the track played today," he said, "she was never in position to win."
As she struggled, Bayern zipped along on the rail, going a half-mile in a comfortable 47.66 seconds and 6 furlongs in 1:11.16. Garcia unleashed him entering the stretch and they poured it on, spurting clear by three lengths at the eighth pole as the crowd of 35,093 roared.
"Obviously, we were going to the lead," Garcia said. "There was no Plan B. I wasn't surprised how well he ran. Going into the race I wasn't worried about the filly or anyone."
Bayern paid $11.40 after running 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.82, four-fifths of a second off the stakes record, for his fourth win in seven starts. He earned $600,000, raising his total to $1,077,680 for owner Kaleem Shah.
Albano (11-1) completed a $97 exacta, with 9-1 Wildcat Red third and 21-1 Irish You Well fourth, a head in front of Untapable.
Albano's trainer, Larry Jones, saluted Bayern: "We could have gone around 25 more times and we still weren't going to get him."
Making the defeat tougher for Napravnik was that she rode Bayern twice in the spring. She finished first in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs but was disqualified for interference. After Bayern ran ninth in the Preakness, Baffert switched to Gary Stevens, who dominated the 7-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes on Belmont Stakes day. Garcia picked up the mount because Stevens is sidelined by knee problems, and the Mexican pinch hitter hit another home run in his favorite race.
"He was cruising the whole way," Garcia said. "When we turned for home, he took off."