Bayern, who will start his career at stud at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in a few days, is a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner (in 1:59.88), a Haskell winner (in 1:47.82 by seven-plus lengths), a G2 Pennsylvania Derby winner (in 1:46.96 by five-plus lengths), and a G2 Woody Stephens winner (in 1:20.75 by seven-plus lengths) over the range of 7F to 10F on dirt — the ideal profile for a top-level stallion prospect in the US. He wasn’t a classic winner, but he won those races in fast times at 3, and he defeated the classic winners of his year — California Chrome and Tonalist — as well as the horse thought to be the best of his generation, the late Shared Belief — the 2-year-old champion of 2013. Altogether, Bayern won six of 15 starts and $4,454,930 (six of 10 and $4,389,680 through age 3; he wasn’t quite the same in five starts at 4) and his racing credentials are impeccable.
A sire prospect is judged on race record, physique, and pedigree. The photo of Bayern above (taken by Frances J. Karon on Sunday) answers the physical part of the equation emphatically. It’s a rare young horse who will look like a stud at this time of year as he transitions from the racetrack to the breeding shed. Most haven’t “let down” enough to properly define their mass and musculature for a photo inspection, and most young horses are rarely advertised in ads in the conformation pose, but Bayern’s impressive physical presence has been well known since he sold for $320,000 as a 2-year-old in training at the Fasig-Tipton May Maryland sale from the Eddie Woods consignment. He was always a tank as a horse in training, and his impressive quarters and build, so evident in the photo above, are part of what generated the engine he displayed on the track.
That leaves Bayern’s pedigree component as the elephant in the room, and the reason the horse is starting off at stud for only $15,000 live foal. Obviously, if he’d been a son of a commercial sire, he’d be priced at double his fee.
Bayern is by Offlee Wild from Alittlebitearly, by Thunder Gulch, and he was bred by Helen Alexander in Kentucky. Half of his pedigree — his female family — is absolute royalty, and it happens to be the extended female line of California Chrome, too. Both horses trace to the Sir Gallahad III matron Betty Derr, an important acquisition for breeder Louis B. Mayer and the source of a rich vein of racehorses, broodmares, and stallions. From her spring Kentucky Derby winner Iron Liege (Betty Derr, 2nd dam), Swaps (BD, 3rd dam), California Chrome (BD, 8th dam), Arch (BD, 6th dam), Bayern (BD, 6th dam), Green Desert (BD, 5th dam), Courtly Dee (BD, 3rd dam), and Althea (BD, 4th dam), plus many others.
Bayern traces to Betty Derr through its most commercial branch, that of 1983 Broodmare of the Year Courtly Dee. The latter was purchased by BBA for a partnership that included Helen Alexander and her mother, Helen Groves, for $900,000 at the 1980 Keeneland November sale, in foal to Alydar. That foal turned out to be champion 2-year-old filly of 1983 and G1 Arkansas Derby winner Althea. The partnership sent the mare back to Alydar after Althea’s success and got G2 winners Aishah and Aquilegia — Bayern’s 2nd dam.
Bayern’s Thunder Gulch dam Alittlebitearly was unraced, probably because she was born in December and would have given a year away to her contemporaries. It’s obviously the reason for her name.
Alittlebitearly was bred to Darley’s Wild Again stallion Offlee Wild in 2010, his fifth year at stud, and Bayern was foaled in 2011. Offlee Wild had led the Freshman Sire list in 2009 and had champion 2-year-old filly and BC Juvenile Fillies winner She Be Wild in his first crop, so the mating was understandable with things certainly looking up for Offlee Wild going into 2010 and forward. But the stallion’s subsequent crops didn’t contain enough mares of the quality of Alittlebitearly to sustain his early success, and he was standing at Pin Oak Lane in Pennsylvania for $4,000 by the time Bayern was making news in 2014. In October of that year, before Bayern’s BC Classic, a deal was made to sell Offlee Wild to Turkey, where he now stands.
Offlee Wild was a good racehorse by a good sire, Wild Again, out of a mare by Seattle Slew. And he ran to his pedigree, which was suited for 10F. He won the G1 Suburban Handicap over 10F in 2:00.50 at 5, and he’d developed early enough to win the G3 Holy Bull Stakes in January of his 3-year-old season. But, he is the weak link in Bayern’s armor — especially for the commercial marketplace, and the reason Bayern is at $15,000.
Can Bayern overcome it, given his race record, looks, and female family, and produce commercial yearlings, and, more importantly, become a successful stallion? Yes. His own physical traits and race record will probably handle the sales arena well vis-a-vis the stud fee, and his sire will not necessarily stop him from sire success, especially in the current pedigree landscape where the lines of Mr. Prospector, Storm Cat, and A.P. Indy are ubiquitous and should suit him well.
Uncle Mo’s runaway success in 2015 is the most recent example of success off the beaten sire path, and this holds true for such as Tiznow (Cee’s Tizzy); Indian Charlie (In Excess), Mo’s own sire; More Than Ready (Southern Halo), the only good son of his sire in the NH; Candy Ride (Ride the Rails); Holy Bull (Great Above); Yes It’s True (Is It True); Maria’s Mon (Wavering Monarch); Macho Uno (Holy Bull), etc.
For each of the above, the common denominator was race record and the backing of a farm that believed in the horse. Bayern has that.