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Bayern is fast and favored in Travers at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. (AP) - He already knows Bayern is fast, and now Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is going to give the 3-year-old colt a chance to see how far he can stretch his speed.

Impressive in winning the $1 million Haskell Invitational in his most recent start, Bayern will go after his second straight Grade 1 victory in Saturday's 145th running of the $1.25 million Travers Stakes at Saratoga Race Course.

Favored at 2-1 in the morning line, Bayern and jockey Martin Garcia will break from post two in a 10-horse field for the 1 1/4-mile Mid-Summer Derby that includes fellow Grade 1 winners Tonalist, Wicked Strong and Mr Speaker. All horses carry 126 pounds.

Bayern has not run farther than 1 3/16 miles, when he ran into early traffic trouble and never got into the race while finishing ninth in the Preakness. Baffert, who won the 2001 Travers with eventual Horse of the Year Point Given, ran the horse in three weeks in the seven-furlong Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park, winning by 7 1/2 lengths.

Baffert brought Bayern back to California and then shipped East again for the 1 1/8-mile Haskell, where the son of Offlee Wild broke sharply from the gate and outran his opponents to win by 7 1/4 lengths.

''I was waiting to see what he did in the Haskell. I thought he should win,'' Baffert said. ''After he ran in the Haskell, I didn't really see any reason not to try him a little further because it wasn't really taxing on him. He handled it pretty well. I really think this horse has finally put it all together.''

Tonalist, second choice at 3-1, and Wicked Strong, third choice at 7-2, have taken turns beating each other this year and meet for the third time in a graded stakes race. Winner of the Peter Pan, Tonalist came from off the pace to capture the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes by a head for trainer Christophe Clement's first victory in a Triple Crown race.

Jockey Joel Rosario will break outside Bayern in post six for the Travers, one spot inside Wicked Strong.

''I'm looking forward to the Travers,'' Clement said. ''I'm looking forward to a mile and a quarter. I'm looking forward to the pace scenario. I'm excited. Let's go.''

Fourth in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont, Wicked Strong added blinkers for the 1 1/8-mile Jim Dandy, where he was closer to the pace than usual. He took the lead turning for home and had plenty left to turn away Tonalist's late bid.

''We needed to see that from him,'' trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. ''He's been slowly developing all along. He certainly didn't run bad in those (Triple Crown) races, but he hadn't put it all together like that. I'm really happy where we're at right now.''

In addition to Wicked Strong, Jerkens will also saddle Curlin Stakes winner V. E. Day in the Travers, a race he won with Afleet Express in 2010.

Mr Speaker won the Grade 1 Belmont Derby Invitational on grass in July at 1 1/4 miles. Also entered are Charge Now, Commanding Curve, Kid Cruz, Ulanbator and Viva Majorca.

The Travers will be televised by NBC, with post time at 5:46 p.m.

Copyright 2017 by STATS LLC and Associated Press.
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Mike Dempsey Mike covers the New York racing circuit (Aqueduct, Belmont Park, and Saratoga) year round as well as Keeneland, Churchill Downs, the Triple Crown, and the Breeders' Cup.
The 2015 Triple Crown saw Mike correctly predict American Pharoah to win both the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Mike nailed the Exacta and Trifecta in the Belmont Stakes.

Mike had a solid 2014 Triple Crown race season, correctly picking the winning horse in 2 of 3 races. He selected I'll Have another to win The Preakness, and nailed Union Rags to win the Belmont Stakes as his top pick.

Mike also had past succes in the Kentucky Derby, winning with Animal Kingdom in 2011 and rode his top picks, Super Saver and Street Sense, to the finish line in 2010 and 2007 respectively.

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Jerry Sessa Jerry "Shots" Sessa has been involved in horse racing for over 30 years. He now brings his meticulous handicapping style to When Jerry posts picks you are getting his best bets...when you win, he wins.
Jerry opened the 2016 Triple Crown season by hitting his Derby Day best bet, Nyquist. He also nailed the Derby exacta for a $30.60 payout. On 4/16/16 at Keeneland, Jerry hit an $819 exacta that led to a $38k Trifecta & a $300k Super.

In the 2015 Belmont Stakes Jerry dominated races 8-11 by hitting a $4,400 Pick 4, 3 Daily Doubles, 2 Pick 3's and calling American Pharoah as the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years.

Jerry is always looking to repeat his 2012 Triple Crown success, when he selected the winning horses for The Preakness and The Belmont Stakes.

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