ARCADIA, Calif. — Bayern won the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic by a nose, surviving a stewards’ inquiry prompted by multiple horses bumping near the start of Saturday’s race.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert had to wait, along with a crowd of 61,114 at Santa Anita, to confirm that he had finally won North America’s richest race after failing in 12 previous tries.
“It’s been so long waiting, I was like, ‘Lord, you can’t take it away from me now,’” said Baffert, who has won just about every other big race in the sport, including three Kentucky Derbies. “I couldn’t breathe the last 20 yards.”
The two-day world championships concluded with trainer Chad Brown claiming three victories, while trainer Wesley Ward had two. European horses earned just one victory, with 30-1 shot Karakontie in the $2 million Mile.
That was one of four upsets Saturday. The biggest came in the $2 million Juvenile Fillies, with Take Charge Brandi kicking off the nine Cup races with a 61-1 upset for 79-year-old Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith extended his record for Cup victories to 21 with a win in the Filly & Mare Sprint with Judy the Beauty — the only favorite to win Saturday.
Three of four favorites won on opening day Friday.
In the Classic, Bayern ran 11/4 miles in 1:59.88 and paid $14.20, $8 and $5.20 at 6-1 odds.
Toast of New York returned $18 and $10.80. Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome was another neck back in third and paid $5.40 to show.
Shared Belief, the 5-2 favorite co-owned by sports talk host Jim Rome, was knocked off his game at the start and finished fourth, ending his undefeated streak at seven.
The inquiry involved the first four finishers.
The start of the race was a wild one, with some of the horses in the full field of 14 bounced into each other like bumper cars at the county fair.
Luckily, no one appeared to get hurt.
Bayern, with Martin Garcia aboard, came over sharply on Shared Belief out of the starting gate. That forced Shared Belief into Moreno, with Travers winner V.E. Day getting squeezed. Several strides later, as the horses were scrambling to settle in for the run past the grandstand, UAE Derby winner Toast of New York smacked Whitney winner Moreno.
Out of the chaos, Bayern emerged with the lead, appropriate since he is usually the fastest horse away from the gate.
Candy Boy was sixth, followed by Cigar Street, Zivo, Imperative and Footbridge. V.E. Day was 11th, followed by Prayer for Relief, Majestic Harbor and Moreno.
Bayern’s two previous biggest wins of the year were in the Haskell Invitational and Pennsylvania Derby. He missed the Kentucky Derby and finished ninth in the Preakness. He turned the corner with an impressive win in the Woody Stephens on the Belmont Stakes undercard, starting a run of four stakes wins in his last five starts.
Bayern’s victory likely denies California Chrome champion 3-year-old honors, and places him squarely in the running for Horse of the Year.