LOUISVILLE — About five jumps into Bayern's season debut Saturday, jockey Martin Garcia knew the horse who carried him to victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic last November had left his best run back in the starting gate.
As the multiple Grade I winner spun his wheels for 7 furlongs in Saturday's Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes, fellow Grade I winner Private Zone hurled himself into another top-level performance.
The 6-year-old gelding did what he does best in a career that now spans 27 starts, going to the front and daring others to catch him as he notched a 41/4-length victory over five others.
The $500,000 Churchill Downs was one of six stakes on the undercard of the Kentucky Derby.
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Private Zone missed the memo that the race was supposed to be Bayern's for the taking. The 4-year-old Bayern needs to be on the front to be effective but got off to a lackluster start in his first outing since his Breeders' Cup triumph last Nov. 1.
Stuck in behind Private Zone and Nates Mineshaft through an opening quarter in :22.38, Bayern began backing out of it approaching the final turn and finished last in the six-horse field.
"He broke really sharp but the ground broke from under him," Garcia said. "He doesn't have the kick that he usually does. He was done after a half-mile. He didn't handle the track at all. The first five jumps he was good but after that, not at all."
Private Zone was exceptional as he put away Nates Mineshaft in the lane and kept surging along the rail en route to hitting the wire in 1:22.54 over a fast track under Martin Pedroza for his eighth career win.
Flay's Dame Dorothy takes Humana Distaff
Dame Dorothy, owned by Bobby Flay, outlasted Judy the Beauty and Moonlit Stroll after a stretch-long battle to win the $300,000, Grade I Humana Distaff for fillies and mares by a neck.
Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Javier Castellano, Dame Dorothy covered the 7 furlongs on a fast main track in 1:22.67. It was the second victory in the race for Castellano, who won in 2005 on My Trusty Cat.
On the far turn, Judy the Beauty moved first at Moonlit Stroll and was joined by Dame Dorothy as the trio hit the top of the stretch as a team. The three horses raced together until deep stretch.
Competitive Edge wins former Derby Trial
Competitive Edge romped to a 4½ -length victory in stakes-record time to win the $200,000, Grade III Pat Day Mile for 3-year-olds. The race was formerly known as the Derby Trial.
Trained by Pletcher and ridden by John Velazquez, Competitive Edge covered the mile on a fast main track in 1:34.18, breaking the stakes record of 1:34.40 established in 1969.
Competitive Edge, now 4-for-4 in his career, is a Kentucky-bred son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver.
Tepin wins gate to wire
Tepin took the lead out of the gate and cruised to a 1½ -length victory over defending race champion Coffee Clique to win the $300,000, Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile for fillies and mares.
Trained by Mark Casse and ridden by Julien Leparoux, Tepin ran the mile on the turf in 1:34.12.
Tepin had more than enough left in the tank to repel the midstretch bid of Coffee Clique. Sandiva was third.
Divisidero roars from behind in American Turf
Divisidero rocketed past the bulk of the field in the stretch to win the $250,000, Grade II American Turf for 3-year-olds by three-quarters of a length over A Lot.
Trained by Buff Bradley and ridden by Rafael Hernandez, Divisidero covered the 11⁄16 miles on a firm turf course in 1:41.59. World Approval was third.
A Lot's jockey, John Velazquez, said his horse never saw Divisidero coming and didn't seem to care.
"The other horse passed him; he didn't even know the other horse passed him. He just kept looking at the infield. ... He didn't pay attention. He didn't care.''
Finnegans Wake surges late in Woodford Reserve
Finnegans Wake got up in the final strides to win the $500,000, Grade I Woodford Reserve Turf Classic for 4-year-olds and up.
Trained by Peter Miller and ridden by Victor Espinoza, Finnegans Wake completed the 11⁄8 miles in 1:47.24 to edge Sky Captain (who was disqualified from second to fourth) by a head.