Bayern left a field of very good 3-year-olds in his wake a the top of the Belmont Park stretch, striding away powerfully to win the $500,000 Woody Stephens (G2) by 7 1/2-lengths to become Bob Baffert's first of two graded stakes winners on Saturday.
Can the Man, who like Bayern is owned by Kaleem Shah, would win the Grade 3 Affirmed S. later in the day at Santa Anita Park.
Coming off a tough race in the Preakness (G1) three weeks ago, Bayern drew the rail in the field of 13 contesting the seven furlong Woody Stephens.
To keep from getting shuffled too far back, Gary Stevens hustled Bayern up towards the front after a very good break from the gate. He chased Pure Sensation early, then took over after a half-mile in a sizzling :44.20 seconds. With no serious challenges at the head of the stretch, Bayern extended his lead with every stride in the lane, finishing the distance in 1:20.75, just 0.58 seconds off the track record.
"That was a powerhouse performance," said Stevens. "He had a bad experience in the gate in the Preakness. (Assistant trainer) Jimmy Barnes and Bob's crew did a great job getting him ready by schooling, schooling, schooling him. Then when I saw we drew the one hole, I thought 'Oh no, he's going to be standing in there a long time,' so I was worried. But he made a perfect break and when I asked him he turned in what was an awesome performance today. He really deserved that win."
The Woody Stephens marked Bayern's first official stakes win; he finished first in the Derby Trial (G3) at Churchill Downs in late April, but was disqualified to second. He also finished third in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Saturday's big payday boosted Bayern's lifetime earnings to $477,680.