Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The biggest riser in the latest Kentucky Derby Dirty Dozen is the undefeated colt Bayern. The son of Offlee Wild dazzled the Santa Anita crowd on Feb. 13 with a 15-length triumph over Tap It Rich.
It was his first victory since breaking his maiden on Jan. 4, also at Santa Anita. Unfortunately, Bayern did not race as a 2-year-old, which has been the kiss of death for any horse trying to win the Kentucky Derby. Apollo was the last horse to do so all the way back in 1882.
There have been 58 horses since 1937 without a 2-year-old start to try to win the Derby. Of the first 52, just two (Strodes Creek in 1994 and Coaltown in 1948) finished second and three others ran third. However, of the last six, one (Curlin in 2007) finished third and Bodemeister (2012) ran second despite a three-length lead with one furlong remaining.
Bayern, trained by Bob Baffert who also saddled Bodemeister, is short on experience but long on talent. He began his career with a scintillating 3 1/4- length win, a race he stopped the clock in 1:22 1/5 for seven furlongs.
That day, Bayern rated a length behind Hold Everything up the backstretch before gaining the lead around the turn. The colt coasted home with jockey Gary Stevens hand-riding him through the final furlong in 12 1/5 seconds.
That race was a key one as a pair of colts came back to win their next start, and one of them, Hoppertunity, is entered in the Risen Star Stakes on Saturday. Furthermore, Rprettyboyfloyd, who ran second to Bayern, finished third in the recently run San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita.
Based on that performance, I placed Bayern eighth in my initial Dirty Dozen. The colt missed a workout in late January due to illness, so I removed him the following week. The layoff was temporary as he was back ready to run in an allowance race in mid-February. At that point, I had Bayern 11th, but this week, he jumps nine spots to second after running the top 3-year-old race of the season.
It is true he did not defeat much, but when a horse wins by 15 lengths while running his final quarter of a two-turn mile race in 24 seconds without the jockey going to the whip, it would not matter if he was racing against cows.
There are a few issues still unanswered regarding Bayern, one of which is how he will react to any sort of adversity. On the flip side, his innate ability might be enough to deal with whatever trouble might come his way in the future.
As for Bayern's pedigree, his sire, Offlee Wild won at 1 1/4 miles in the Suburban Handicap at Belmont Park, and defeated Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide in the Mass Cap over nine furlongs at Suffolk Downs.
Bayern's dam side is just as impressive, if not more. His third dam, Courtly Dee, produced multiple stakes winners, including Althea, Native Courier, Twining and Aquilegia, Bayern's granddam, who prevailed at 1 1/4 miles on the turf. Alittlebitearly, Bayern's dam, was unraced, but her sire is Thunder Gulch, winner of the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
Based on all the above, don't be shocked if Bayern remains undefeated en route to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
SOUTHWEST STAKES RECAP
Tapiture won his second straight stakes race with an authoritative 4 1/4- length victory in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. The son of Tapit rode an inside trip to defeat Strong Mandate. It was a gap of six lengths back to Ride on Curlin in third. Tapiture finished the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44 4/5.
It was an impressive victory that will have a lot of experts moving him up on their Kentucky Derby lists. However, don't be fooled by his performance. Tapiture had a trouble-free trip and his breeding does not suggest he will excel beyond nine furlongs.
It could be argued that Strong Mandate was more impressive having broken somewhat slowly out of the gate and then having to rush up six-wide up the backstretch. Jockey Joel Rosario also had to steady the colt after being bumped by Walt around the first turn.
LOOKING AHEAD TO THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH AND RISEN STAR
The Fountain of Youth is led by Top Billing and Commissioner. Both colts make their stakes debut, but the former has post 12 while the latter will break from the rail.
Two other horses to watch are General a Rod and Wildcat Red, the 1-2 finishers in the Gulfstream Park Derby. Finally, look for a strong performance from We Miss Artie even though he has fared better on turf and synthetics than on dirt.
Fountain of Youth - 1) Top Billing, 2) We Miss Artie, 3) General a Rod
Also at Gulfstream Park on Saturday is a 1 1/16 allowance race led by a pair of Todd Pletcher-trained maiden winners, Matterhorn and Constitution. The former defeated Harpoon in his debut while the latter broke slowly in his initial outing but still proved best by a length. Other colts with a chance are Tonalist, Wicked Strong and Mexikoma.
The Risen Star has 14 entrants even with the defection of Bold Holder. The speedy Vicar's in Trouble has an outside post, but there does not seem to be much early speed to his inside.
Other horses to keep an eye on are the aforementioned Hoppertunity, Pletcher's Intense Holiday and Delta Jackpot winner Rise Up as well as Albano and Gold Hawk, the second- and third-place finishers, respectively, in the Lecomte. Don't sleep on Commanding Curve, who makes his first start as a 3-year-old since a solid maiden win at Churchill Downs on Nov. 30.
Risen Star - 1) Hoppertunity, 2) Commanding Curve, 3) Gold Hawk
THE JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Top Billing - Biggest test comes on Saturday in Fountain of Youth
2) Bayern - The sky is the limit for this talented 3-year-old
3) Shared Belief - Looking more and more as if he'll miss San Felipe
4) Honor Code - A pair of works for next start are in the books
5) Cairo Prince - Has begun prepping for Florida Derby
6) Candy Boy - Will race just once more before Kentucky Derby
7) Commissioner - Breaks from the inside in Fountain of Youth
8) Samraat - One of the few unbeaten 3-year-olds on list
9) Strong Mandate - Tough trip in Southwest Stakes
10) Tapiture - Strolled to victory in Southwest
11) Havana - Finally posted a five-furlong work on President's Day
12) Matterhorn - Headlines a solid field on Saturday at Gulfstream