REIGNING BREEDERS’ CUP CLASSIC WINNER BAYERN PROMINENT IN GRADE I, $300,000 AWESOME AGAIN STAKES SATURDAY; BAFFERT TRAINEE TO TAKE ON STABLEMATE HOPPERTUNITY, HARD ACES & OTHERS AT 1 1/8 MILES

 

THE AWESOME AGAIN IS ONE OF FIVE GRADE I, BREEDERS’ CUP CHALLENGE ‘WIN & YOU’RE IN’ STAKES TO BE OFFERED AS PART OF 11-RACE BLOCKBUSTER CARD ON OPENING DAY

 

ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 23, 2015)–Although winless in four starts since taking last year’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic, Kaleem Shah’s Bayern is undefeated in three starts at Santa Anita and looms large in a field of eight three-year-olds and up in Saturday’s Grade I, $300,000 Awesome Again Stakes at 1 1/8 miles.

A close third two starts back in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles San Diego Handicap July 25, Bayern showed early speed but caved readily to finish ninth, beaten 22 ½ lengths at 7-2 by superstar mare Beholder in the Grade I, 1 ¼ miles Pacific Classic Aug. 22.

Despite the double digit setback, trainer Bob Baffert has been pleased with the way the 4-year-old Offlee Wild ridgling has re-acclimated in Arcadia.

“He’s enjoying the surface here at Santa Anita,” said Baffert following Bayern’s one mile work here on Sept. 12 of 1:36.80. (Baffert actually had the horse working six furlongs in 1:11.60, followed by a one mile gallop-out time on his watch of 1:37.20).

Shrouded in controversy following a rough and tumble start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Bayern was freshened over the winter and was then well beaten in both the Grade II, seven furlong Churchill Downs Stakes May 2 and the Grade I Metropolitan (Mile) Handicap June 6.

In addition to his front-running win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Bayern’s Santa Anita resume includes a 3 ¼ length first out maiden win going seven furlongs on Jan. 4, 2014, followed by a 15 length score in a one mile allowance here on Feb. 13, 2014. He is 14-6-1-2 overall with earnings of $4,418,930.

Second to California Chrome in last year’s Grade I Santa Anita Derby, Baffert’s Hoppertunity was a tough luck second, beaten a nose, by Hard Aces three starts back in the Grade I Gold Cup at Santa Anita and will try to atone for a 9 ¾ length drubbing at the hands of Beholder in the Pacific Classic Aug. 22.

Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, Hoppertunity, a 4-year-old colt by Any Given Saturday, is a versatile sort who can sit close early or come from far off the pace. With two wins from seven starts at Santa Anita, Hoppertunity is 13-4-3-2 overall with earnings of $1,351,675.

Hronis Racing’s Hard Aces, who followed his upset win in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita with a distant sixth place finish in the Pacific Classic, will hope to rebound for trainer John Sadler over the site of his biggest career triumph. Best suited as a deep closer, he’ll hope to have a fast pace to exploit. A 5-year-old horse by Holy Bull, he’ll be making his sixth career start for Sadler in the Awesome Again. With one win from three starts at Santa Anita, the 5-year-old horse by Hard Spun is 24-6-3-7 overall with earnings of $592,395.

Imperative, whose claim to fame came in winning the Grade II Charlestown Classic in April, 2014, has been winless in 10 subsequent starts but makes only his second start for the always dangerous Richard Baltas on Saturday. A $50,000 claim in December, 2013, he’s owned by KM Racing Enterprise, Inc. A 5-year-old Bernardini gelding, Imperative is winless in eight starts at Santa Anita and is 25-3-5-3 overall with earnings of $1,645,120.

A winner of the ungraded Harry F. Brubaker Stakes at one mile on Aug. 26, Point Piper will make his third start for Jerry Hollendorfer Saturday and the 5-year-old horse by Giant’s Causeway appears to be on the improve. Owned by Gatto Racing, LLC, Jusso or Schlaich, and partners, Point Piper is 15-4-3-2 overall with earnings of $102,725.

Lucky Charm Stable’s lightly raced Smooth Roller, a close fourth in the Brubaker after stumbling at the break, tries graded company for the first time but appears fast and dangerous for trainer Victor Garcia. A 4-year-old Hard Spun gelding, he’ll be shooting for his third victory from four career starts.

The complete field for the Grade I Awesome Again Stakes, to be run as the tenth race on an 11-race card Saturday with jockeys and weights in post position order: Hard Aces, Victor Espinoza, 124; Sammy Mandeville, Rafael Bejarano, 119; Point Piper, Mario Gutierrez, 119; Global View, Drayden Van Dyke, 119; Hoppertunity, Mike Smith, 121; Imperative, Corey Nakatani, 119; Smooth Roller, Tyler Baze, 119; Bayern, Martin Garcia, 121.

Special first post time Saturday is 12:30 p.m. Admission gates open at 10:30 a.m.

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