LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A day after Bayern’s controversial win at the Breeders’ Cup Classic where he survived a stewards’ inquiry, the three-year-old’s trainer Bob Baffert said he had never seen “so much animosity” over a horse race.
A 6-1 shot, Bayern was eventually declared the winner of the $5 million showpiece event at Santa Anita Park after stewards had reviewed a messy start to the race where several horses had bumped into each other.
Ridden by Martin Garcia, Bayern held off English-trained challenger Toast of New York to win North America’s richest horse race by a nose, though both horses had played pivotal roles in the ‘bumper-car’ effect right out of the gate.
“The sad part about all of this is that it distracts from what he (Bayern) did yesterday,” Hall of Fame trainer Baffert said on Sunday as he reflected on his 11th Breeders’ Cup victory, and his first Classic win in 13 tries.
”It’s not like he is a fluke. He can do it all and he’s a fighter. You could tell he was not going to let that other horse (Toast of New York) by. You just have to have racing luck. You are not going to win without racing luck.
“I have never seen so much animosity over a horse race. It seems like people forgot how to watch a race.”
Bayern swerved to his left from the seventh stall on Saturday as soon as the gates opened and collided with the 5-2 Classic favorite Shared Belief, who in turn bumped into Whitney winner Moreno to lose further ground.
Several strides later, Toast of New York ran into Moreno, a four-year-old gelding who went on to finish last in the 14-runner field.
Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, benefiting from a outside draw, boxed on well to place third while Shared Belief charged home late in the stretch to take fourth, his first defeat in eight career starts.
“If the stewards had not posted the inquiry, there would not have been one,” said the 61-year-old Baffert, whose horses have won three Kentucky Derbies, five Preakness Stakes and one Belmont Stakes.
“Mike Smith (who rode Shared Belief) wasn’t going to (claim foul). He said all the trouble happened a little later when the 9 (Toast of New York) came over, and by that time my horse was already gone.”
On Saturday, jockey Smith said his mount had no real chance of winning the race after the tangle at the start.
“I was never able to get comfortable after getting hit at the break,” he said. “I think it cost me the race.”
Neither Shared Belief’s trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who was careful with his words on Saturday by simply stating “you saw what happened”, nor his chief assistant, Dan Ward, were prepared to comment on Sunday about the controversial start, though the trainer said his horse had pulled up okay.
“He came out okay,” Hollendorfer said of the three-year-old gelding, who missed the 2014 Triple Crown season due to lingering foot issues.
“I don’t have any plans. He needs to be freshened up a bit.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury