Bay­ern fal­ters on the un­der­card

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Bill Dwyre and David Whar­ton bill.dwyre@la­times.com david.whar­ton@la­times.com

EL­MONT, N.Y. — Be­sides Amer­i­can Pharoah’s pur­suit of a Triple Crown, Bel­mont day had at least two other ma­jor el­e­ments to of­fer: money and Bay­ern.

The money was guar­an­teed.

On a day of 12 races, plus the $1.5-mil­lion Bel­mont, there were purses to­tal­ing an ad­di­tional $6,332,000. Think of it as kind of a pre­tend Breed­ers’ Cup.

There were six Grade I stakes, two Grade II’s and a Grade III. Af­ter the Bel­mont, the big­gest deal was the Met Mile. It of­fered $1.25 mil­lion and the strong­est and most com­pet­i­tive field of the day.

It also of­fered Bay­ern, like Amer­i­can Pharoah a Bob Baf­fert- trained horse, and, like Amer­i­can Pharoah, a horse with a big rep­u­ta­tion. Bay­ern had won the Breed­ers’ Cup Clas­sic at Santa Anita last fall, although in a race re­mem­bered al­most as much for the bang­ing around at the start that ap­peared to elim­i­nate fa­vored Shared Be­lief as the vic­tory.

Many felt Bay­ern’s in­volve­ment in that messy start should have re­sulted in his num­ber be­ing taken down. Baf­fert, of course, dis­agrees.

“Bay­ern got an un­fair bad rap,” Baf­fert says.

So there, in the ninth race, was Bay­ern, poised to erase some doubts. Un­like the big purses, his vic­tory was not guar­an­teed.

Be­sides owner Kaleem Shah’s Bay­ern, the race in­cluded stakes win­ners such as Pri­vate Zone, Wicked Strong, Honor Code and Ton­al­ist. Ton­al­ist won last year’s Bel­mont Stakes, deny­ing Cal­i­for­nia Chrome a Triple Crown.

Honor Code, un­der a su­perb ride by Javier Castel­lano, turned the ta­bles on all of them, win­ning in a romp and leav­ing Bay­ern fans, and prob­a­bly Baf­fert, fur­ther con­fused.

Bay­ern, af­ter lead­ing to the be­gin­ning of the home turn, fin­ished last, em­bar­rass­ingly eased by jockey Martin Gar­cia.

Real win­ners

In the post-Bel­mont news con­fer­ence, Amer­i­can Pharoah jockey Vic­tor Espinoza said that he will not take a penny of his $80,000 share of the purse. He said it will all go to the City of Hope and its chil­dren’s cancer pro­gram.

Baf­fert and his wife Jill also said they would do­nate $50,000 to four dif­fer­ent char­i­ties.

For years, Espinoza has been send­ing checks to City of Hope, via his ac­coun­tant, and he never said a word about it un­til af­ter he rode Cal­i­for­nia Chrome to the Ken­tucky Derby vic­tory last year.

At that time, he said he wasn’t even sure if the City of Hope knew where the money was com­ing from, nor did he care.

They know now.

Best of three

In a strange sort of con­tra­dic­tion to the big money and the big day, Satur­day be­gan with a three-horse race.

It­was for 3-year-olds and it was called the Wins­tar Farm Easy Goer, of­fer­ing a purse of $150,000. With three horses to­tal, it was the clos­est thing to easy money in the sport for the own­ers.

In the end, Ja­pan beat Stan­ford. That sounds more like an Olympic swim­ming re­sult than a horse race, but yes, those were the horse’s names.

Bill Mott, trainer of Ja­pan, cracked af­ter­ward about his horse, “I said be­fore the race, he’s the only horse that can up­set Amer­i­can Pharoah. I just had him in the wrong race.”

What a crowd

Last year, when Cal­i­for­nia Chrome went for his Triple Crown, at­ten­dance was 102,199 at Bel­mont Park. From all re­ports, that was about 50,000 more than the place and the or­ga­niz­ers could han­dle.

Therewere end­less lines to catch nearby trains, fights in the park­ing lots, in­ter­minable con­ces­sion lines and lots of peo­ple so un­happy that the New York Rac­ing Assn. feared they would never re­turn.

So the NYRA capped at­ten­dance at 90,000 and warned peo­ple not to come out if they didn’t have tick­ets. That­would have been a clever mar­ket­ing move if there were no Triple Crown be­ing con­tested, be­cause, when that hap­pens, at­ten­dance is usu­ally closer to 70,000.

It helped Satur­day that early rains gave way to sun­shine and tem­per­a­tures inthe mid-70s. Rid­ers in ear­lier races could sense the buzz.

“It was an awe­some feel­ing,” said Fran­cisco Tor­res, the win­ning jockey aboard Chan­nel Marker in the Jaipur In­vi­ta­tional. “The sun gods and the Bel­mont gods shined on us to­day.

Sher­man’s honor

Cal­i­for­nia Chrome’s beloved trainer, Art Sher­man, will re­ceive the Ed Friendly In­dus­try Ser­vice Award from the Thor­ough­bred Own­ers of Cal­i­for­nia on Aug. 15 at Del Mar.

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