It’s been 13 years since Point Given gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his only Travers victory.
Baffert may be ready to make another serious attempt to end that streak this year.
Bayern, who routed a top-notch field in the Grade I Haskell Invitational Sunday, flew from New Jersey to California early Monday afternoon, but Baffert is eyeing a trip back east for the Offlee Wild colt’s next start.
Baffert said the $1.25 million Travers on Aug. 23 is on the radar for Bayern, impressive in taking the Haskell by 7 1⁄4 lengths in front-running fashion.
“I’m looking at the Travers or the Pennsylvania Derby,” Baffert told the New York Racing Association by phone on Monday. “A lot will have to do with his energy and how taxing the race was on him. It’s cooler here and it’s relaxing, so we’ll get him back here and see how he’s doing. He looks great.”
The Grade II $1 million Pennsylvania Derby is Sept. 20 at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa.
In addition to winning the Travers in 2001, Baffert has sent horses to the Mid-Summer Classic on three other accasions. He was third with Roman Ruler in 2005, 10th with 2011 Haskell winner Coil and ninth with Liaison in 2012.
“It takes a good one [to win the Travers],” said Baffert. “We’ll know in a couple of weeks. We’ll give him a couple of weeks, and see how he’s doing.”
Owned by Kaleem Shah, Bayern has four wins from six starts this year, including a 7 1⁄2-length victory in the Grade II Woody Stephens at Belmont on June 7. He finished ninth of 10 after a rough trip in Preakness, and was disqualified from a win in the Grade III Derby Trial and placed second for interference.
In the Haskell, Bayern broke on top and led through fractions of 23.54 seconds for a quarter-mile, 47.66 for the half and six furlongs in 1:11.16 before hitting the wire in 1:47.82.
“He really showed me a lot,” said Baffert, who won the Haskell for the seventh time. “I was expecting a good race out of him, but he just kept on kicking and showed me that two turns isn’t going to be a problem. He showed us a lot early on, and then he took a couple steps backward, and I was losing a little confidence in him.
“When he ran in the Derby Trial, I lost a little confidence in him, and in the Preakness, he got completely wiped out and never had a chance. The Belmont race was off the charts. He’s got two off-the-charts races in a row, and I just want to keep him in that mindset. I don’t want to rush him.”
Roll-ing to victory
R Free Roll, making her first start for trainer Danny Gargan, took an early lead on a sloppy track and went on to win the $200,000 Grade II Honorable Miss Handicap by 1 1⁄4 lengths at Saratoga.
Making her 17th start, but just the second outside of her native Florida, the 4-year-old daughter of Rockport Harbor was never challenged under jockey Paco Lopez. She finished the six furlongs in 1:10.12.
“I hit her a couple of times, waiting for the other horses, but nobody came,” said Lopez. “I had a lot of horse, and she ran really well today.”
The Honorable Miss was the first graded-stakes win for R Free Roll and for Gargan. The race also was Gargan’s first win at Saratoga.
“We knew [going to the lead] was the only way we were going to beat [La Verdad]. We took control of the race and made her have to chase,” said Gargan. “That was the game plan, and [R Free Roll’s owner Rich Averill] is a pretty smart handicapper, and he’s a pretty sharp guy to pick those things out.”
R Free Roll paid $15, $5.80 and $5.10, and the $120,000 winner’s share of the purse increased her career earnings to $495,854.
My Wandy’s Girl paid $5.50 and $4.30 for second, with Merry Meadow returning $4.70 for third. Speedinthruthecity, 6-5 favorite La Verdad and Calistoga completed the order of finish.
“Jose [jockey Jose Ortiz] said she really didn’t like the mud in her face,” said Linda Rice, who trains La Verdad. “We had a choice — whether to gun her and try to go with that other speed horse, or not. I left it up to Jose. I told him to figure it out on his own. [Depending on] how she broke, if he wanted to sit off it, fine; if he wanted to go after it, either way. Jose said she didn’t like the mud in her face, and she would have rather run on the lead.”
Romansh remains on track for Saturday’s Whitney despite missing a scheduled work Monday morning due to the weather.
Trainer Tom Albertrani had planned to give the 4-year-old Bernardini colt a final breeze, but decided to put it off after heavy overnight rain soaked the track.
“The horse is ready to go,” said Albertrani. “Coming down to the last work, it shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference, at this point. It’s just a matter of maintenance. We’ve still got a couple of days coming up.”
Romansh had his lone Saratoga work on July 20, going four furlongs in 49.96 seconds on the main track.
“If we could just get an easy breeze in him before Wednesday even, we’ve still got time to do it,” said Albertrani. “I’m not really concerned about it.”