Bayern Odds to win the 2014 Preakness Stakes
by Trevor Whenham - 5/13/2014
California Chrome will be very heavily-favored in the Preakness Stakes. Will the race be a coronation, or can another horse bring the Triple Crown dreams crashing to the ground for another year? There are nine horses that will try, and among the most interesting is Bayern. Can Bayern win the Preakness? The oddsmakers at Sportsbook.ag aren't dismissing the possibility - Bayern's odds to win the Preakness sit at +1000, which makes him the third choice in the likely field.
When trying to determine how to handicap this horse, here are five factors to consider:
Last time out: Bayern's last outing in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs was the win that wasn't. He was the first to cross the wire but was subsequently disqualified and placed second for what was deemed to be excessive contact in the stretch as he drifted out and into the path of new winner Embellishing Bob. It was a combination of inexperience and exhaustion that led to the problems in the stretch. Up to that point, though, he had run a decent race. He led the whole way, setting decent fractions yet still having enough left to fight for the lead late. It wasn't a perfect outing - the competition was such that he should have made winning look much easier - but I put some of the blame on the relatively lousy ride of Rosie Napravnik. The ride was bad enough that it earned Napravnik a three-day suspension. The important thing about the race, though, is that regardless of how it turned out, it happened. The horse is really short of experience, so any races he can run will get him closer to being able to race to his immense potential on a regular basis.
Prior career: There is not much to talk about here - the horse had only run three times before the Trial, and all three had happened since Jan. 4. His first race was a nice win in a maiden race at Santa Anita. It was the second outing, though, that really captured the imaginations of horse fans across the country. It was an allowance race at Santa Anita with a solid field, and the 15-length victory was as dominating and freakish as you could hope to see. You never know if a huge win like that signals the emergence of a superhorse or if it's just a case of a very talented horse that had absolutely everything go right for him on the day. On the strength of that win he was heavily favored to win the Arkansas Derby next time out, but he had surprisingly little left in the stretch after leading the way for much of the race. It was a disappointing result, falling behind both Danza and Ride On Curlin. A relatively poor performance in a stakes debut is not really a cause for concern for a young, inexperienced horse - and only having run four times by this point in this career is a whole lot of inexperience. Tiring in the stretch two races in a row, though, is a bigger concern.
A change in running style?: Bob Baffert seems to think that trying to set the pace might not be the best approach to success for this horse. It certainly hasn't worked out as well as it could the last two races. As such, he has indicated at times since the last outing - including right after the race ended - that a trip further off the pace could be a better approach. On the other hand, he worked an absolutely blistering time at Churchill, so the speed is there and tuned up. I don't really believe that the horse can be trusted to rate here, though given that both Social Inclusion and Pablo Del Monte are also going to be looking to lead - the former is very talented, and the latter isn't nearly as strong but has nothing to lose by trying to burn things up early - being patient could be an effective strategy if he can manage it.
Jockey: Gary Stevens had the mount for each of the horses first three outings, but Rosie Napravnik got the nod for the Derby Trial. I was really not a fan of her trip in that race, but she is still back in the saddle again here. I'm biased because I don't think that there is a better big-race rider around than Stevens - and he is the defending Preakness winner. Still, Napravnik is riding well right now, and she will win more than a couple of Triple Crown races by the time she is done. She is an asset, and she should be more in tune with the horse in her second outing.
Bob Baffert is as good as there is, and he knows how to win Triple Crown races and this one in particular - he has won the Preakness five times, including
most recently in 2010. This has been a very odd year for him on the Triple Crown trail, though. His top juveniles from last fall were hurt and out of
action. Hoppertunity, likely his best Derby shot, was hurt leading up to the race. Chitu, Bayern and Midnight Hawk were all pointed to the Derby, but
Bayern was instead sent to the Derby Trial and Midnight Hawk to the Illinois Derby instead of staying on the trail. Chitu did wind up in the Derby, but not
before also being pointed at the Derby Trial for a while. It all added up to make it seem like Baffert just isn't happy with where his stable is at right
now and doesn't have the confidence that he has had at times. The one thing you can be certain of, though, is that he will be determined to make sure his
horse beats at least one runner. The filly Ria Antonia, who is pointed at the Preakness, was in his stable right through the Kentucky Oaks, run on the eve
of the Kentucky Derby. Her owner transferred her to Tom Amoss at that point, allegedly in part because Baffert didn't think she should be pointed at this
race. Baffert is a proud guy, and he would have no interest in being beaten by a horse that was taken from him in such bizarre circumstances.
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