Bayern wins Classic after inquiry

By Mark Lamport-Stokes
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By Mark Lamport-Stokes ARCADIA California (Reuters) - Bayern survived a lengthy stewards' inquiry before being confirmed as the winner of Saturday's $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic at Santa Anita Park. Ridden by Martin Garcia, the three-year-old colt held off Toast of New York to win America's richest horse race by a nose, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his first victory in the Classic in 13 starts. "This has been so long in the making," Baffert said. "When he hit the wire, I was just like ... it's been so many years in the making and to finally get it done, it was just so great." Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome boxed on well to finish third while the 5-2 race favourite Shared Belief charged home late in the stretch to take fourth, his first defeat in eight career starts. But the official result was delayed when stewards launched an inquiry into the messy start, when several horses bumped into each other at the iconic racing venue in Southern California with its picturesque backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Bayern, which paid $14.20 for a $2 win bet, swerved to his left from the seventh stall as soon as the gates opened, colliding with Shared Belief, who lost a lot of ground. Shared Belief's rider Mike Smith said his mount had no real chance of winning 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." RELIEF FOR GARCIA, BAFFERT The stewards made no changes to the finishing order after the inquiry, to the relief of Garcia and Baffert. "My horse just broke really sharp, and there was nothing I could do," Garcia said. "I corrected right away ... but he was pretty clear." Baffert said: "You don't like to see it, but you can't control the start. I think the nine horse (Toast of New York) probably came over and did more damage 100 yards out of the gate. But it's racing. It's racing luck. "We knew the break was very important for this horse (Bayern), and he broke so hard the ground broke under him. He ducked in on the first jump." In a statement released more than two hours after the race ended, the stewards said they inquired into the incident at the start involving several horses -- including Bayern, Shared Belief and Moreno, which finished last in the 14-runner field. "After speaking with the patrol judges and riders involved, it was our unanimous decision ... that the incident occurred in a part of the race where the horses interfered with were not cost the opportunity to place where they were reasonably expected to finish," the stewards said. Jamie Osborne, the trainer of Toast of New York, said it was a bitter-sweet feeling to finish second. 'He has run his heart out and he nearly pulled off the impossible," he said." "I'm incredibly proud of him and all the team. Yes, it hurts to come second." California Chrome's trainer Art Sherman said his colt had no excuses in his second outing since the Belmont Stakes, where he came up short in his bid to become the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years. "My horse ran his eyeballs," Sherman said. "He was right there, right down to the money. I thought it was a great effort. He came back strong." (Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Julian Linden)