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Kentucky Derby and Horse Racing at The Downey Profile®

The Commish: It's Crunch Time for Bayern


By Greg “The Commish” Johnson

The much anticipated graded stakes debut is here for the Bob Baffert charge Bayern. After some much talked about foot problems, and a ridiculously sizzling workout on April 6, it’s now or never for this guy and a few others as well.

Gary Stevens was beaming like a school boy chasing the ice cream truck after Bayern walloped a field of nobodies and was the backstretch buzz like no other -- until of course California Chrome stepped up. His brief foot problems set him back a few weeks, and then a couple of ho-hum works to test the situation. With a trainer known for working horses like it’s a race, they must have decided to give him a big test in his seven furlong blowout that yielded a 1:23.80 bullet and an all systems go from the connections.

But boy that’s scary quick before travelling to a new world and a much longer distance, and much tougher foes to boot. All the hype is there, and probably a ton of early money could be the tipoff on whether this dude is a monster contender or just another youngster moving a bit toO quickly up the ranks.

With Bayern likely to be prominent early, he is most definitely not the only pony looking for the front.

Strong Mandate established himself on the front end in the Rebel on March 15. His two wins came sprinting and were both almost wire-to-wire efforts, so I’m thinking Saez will send him right from the get go. Despite getting squeezed a bit late in that race, he was right there until the very end in his second race of the year. Is the third time the charm for this D. Wayne Lukas son of Tiznow to finally win his first race around two turns?

This is the first time this year I get to talk about Tapiture, who has been at the top of my list since he took the Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs back in November. You gotta love a horse that's progressed with his speed figures with each and every race, while never being farther than a length and a quarter from the win in five straight routes. He was tough as nails and showed real determination as a fighter in that Rebel Stakes despite getting slammed around, and he came back to fire a bullet workout shortly thereafter. With that, his class, his experience and Joel Rosario at the helm, he would be no surprise at all.

Todd Pletcher brings Commissioner in straight from grabbing the show dough in the Sunland Derby, which equates to not enough points for the big dance just yet. His effort was better than looked, as speed dominated that fray, and he did close with some good interest despite being too far back throughout.  

So what’s a guy who goes by The Commish to do? I put Commissioner's name in my updated 2014 bio before TDP site ever opened this year. Now he is the first horse I can recall stepping into his fourth mile and an eighth race before the Kentucky Derby. A small part of me must be saying go go go, but the handicapper in me is saying a minor share may be his ceiling. Help me, truly.

If a statement can be made for up-and-coming horses for courses, then Knock Em Flat fits the bill. His mile maiden race on March 1 looked like a completely different horse from his three prior sprint efforts, posting an 88 BSF. He came right back with a powerful romp in the slop, and an improved 91 BSF showing that previous effort was no fluke. This guy needs to be close early, and he could wreak havoc for a few of those trying to relax early. Not impossible for a piece at an obvious big, big price.

Ride On Curlin carries a piece of his father’s historic name, and he is clearly moving in the right direction after his very close third in the Rebel. That was a scary good race, and I think this guy is being overshadowed by the bigger-hype names. That seven furlong move in prep for this on April 6 says he came out of this race just fine. He might just be ready for a break-through performance.

Conquest Titan is another who’s last race was better than looked on paper, a fourth place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby on March 8. Connections have been plenty high on this one since his impressive win at Churchill Downs over General a Rod back on Nov. 30. Then there was a second place finish in the Holy Bull while bettering Risen Star hero Intense Holiday. Both his starts this year had him with the look of a pony screaming for more real estate. He sports a bullet workout on April 7 over at Churchill Downs, and with a good pace to run at late, he rates an upset special in here at what should be a fairly good price.

Danza is the “other” Todd Pletcher charge who gets the acid test in his first two turn attempt. He might have raised an eyebrow or two if one of those top two Pletcher go-to jockeys had stayed aboard, but they are elsewhere this weekend. It's hard to gage what to expect from him on this day against these, so I'll have to take the old let’s-see-one-first approach.

Thundergram rounds out the field of nine, and despite showing some success at this track and at two turns, he would need to step it up to biblical proportions to get a slice against these.



Dick and I will again have our annual get-together at Keeneland this weekend, and I can’t wait! Good luck with all your selections and of course, may the horse be with you!

Saturday, R11
Grade I Arkansas Derby
Oaklawn Park
1 1/8 Mile
Post Time 7:07 ET

Post   Horse  ML  Jockey Sx  Wt Trainer
1 Danza (KY)  15-1 J. Bravo C 118 T. Pletcher
2 Knock Em Flat (KY)  20-1 L. Quinonez C 118 D. Von Hemel
3 Tapiture (KY)  9-5 J. Rosario C 122 S. Asmussen
4 Ride On Curlin (KY)  12-1 J. Court C 118 W. Gowan
5 Thundergram (FL)  30-1 N. Arroyo Jr, C 118 M. Casse
6 Commissioner (KY)  8-1 M. Smith C 118 T. Pletcher
7 Conquest Titan (KY)  10-1 C. Borel C 122 M. Casse
8 Bayern (KY)  2-1 G. Stevens C 118 B. Baffert
9 Strong Mandate (KY)  9-2 L. Saez C 122 W. Lukas

All will run with Lasix

Equipment Changes: 5 - Thundergram - Blinkers On

Owners: 1 - Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners ; 2 - Sam Britt & Michael House ; 3 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC (Ron & Joan Winchell) ; 4 - Daniel J. Dougherty ; 5 - John C. Oxley ; 6 - WinStar Farm LLC (Kenny Troutt) ; 7 - Conquest Stables LLC (Ernie Semersky & Dory Newell) ; 8 - Kaleem Shah, Inc. ; 9 - Robert C. Baker & William L. Mack

Breeders: 1 - Liberation Farm & Brandywine Farm; 2 - Upson Downs Farm; 3 - Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC; 4 - G. Watts Humphrey Jr. & Louise IrelandHumphrey Revocable Trust - 2008; 5 - Stanley Boileau; 6 - WinStar Farm, LLC; 7 - Michael Edward Connelly; 8 - Helen Alexander; 9 - G. Watts Humphrey Jr.


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