As a three-year old, he engineered a memorable campaign that saw him become one of the top sophomores of 2014. And more often than not, when he won, he won big.
The first half of Bayern's rookie campaign could be called a mixed bag. Trained by Bob Baffert and owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., he won his first two races while well ahead of his opponents (particularly in his second career start, where he won by two seconds), while showing class by placing in the Grade I Arkansas Derby and Grade III Derby Trial Stakes. He was the initial winner of the latter race, but was disqualified for causing interference in the stretch and placed second. Despite the demotion, Bayern showed gameness as he battled with eventual winner Embellishing Bob going back to just before the top of the stretch.
Interestingly, the Derby Trial had a three-way photo finish, which proved to be a foreshadowing for Bayern later that year.
The turning point of Bayern's 2014 season came on the Belmont Stakes undercard. After finishing off the board in the Preakness following a rough start, the son of Offlee Wild was entered in the Grade II Woody Stephens Stakes. Returning to seven furlongs, the same distance he tried on debut, Bayern put on a clinic. Always a fan of getting the lead early, he did just that at Big Sandy. Taking over after the first split, he never looked back as he set quick fractions en route to a smashing win. The final time was 1:20.75, which is currently one of the fastest final times in the history of the Woody Stephens.
Bayern wasted no time building off that brilliant performance. He came back to win Monmouth Park's Grade I Haskell Invitational by daylight, again leading early while getting a ground saving trip on the inside. A well-beaten tenth in the Grade I Travers Stakes was just a temporary setback, for he quickly took charge in the Grade II Pennsylvania Derby at Parx a few weeks later and was never headed, winning handily in 1:46.96 while setting a new track record for a mile and an eighth.
By now one of the leading three-year-olds in the division, the horse whose name derived from the Bayern Munich soccer team returned to Santa Anita, the site of his first two races, to compete in the Breeders' Cup Classic. His season finale can be called exciting and controversial. At the start of the Classic, Bayern veered inward and it appeared that he made contact with Shared Belief, who bumped into another horse immediately afterwards. Bayern went on to guide the field around Santa Anita before holding off Toast of New York and dual classic winner California Chrome (whom Bayern beat in the Pennsylvania Derby) at the wire. It was like the Derby Trial almost six months earlier, with Bayern again part of a three-way photo finish, but also because there was another inquiry.
Favored to win the Classic, Shared Belief did not get involved for the win but rallied to finish fourth. In a controversial decision, Bayern survived the steward's inquiry to become the 2014 Classic winner. His resume garnered him spots as a finalist for Champion Three-Year-Old and Horse of the Year at the Eclipse Awards, but he could not overtake California Chrome for either honor.
Despite missing out on both awards and the division of opinion surrounding his victory in the Classic, Bayern put together a fine 2014 campaign that saw him win sprints and routes, successfully navigate four different distances, and visit the winners' circle at four different tracks around North America. In addition, he placed in two other graded stakes. Bayern, simply put, was a classy horse.
Getting back to the races in 2015, Bayern resurfaced on the first Saturday in May. Part of the Kentucky Derby undercard, he made his four-year-old debut in the Grade II Churchill Downs Stakes at seven furlongs. In contention for a good part of the race, Bayern had nothing left for the stretch run, finishing in sixth place. That outing set the tone for the rest of the season. In four subsequent starts, Bayern never got back into the win column, alternating between minor awards and off the board results. His best finishes were a pair of thirds in the Grade II San Diego Handicap and Grade I Awesome Again Stakes.
Retired after the Awesome Again, Bayern was victorious in six of fifteen starts, and he finished second once and third three times. Interestingly, one of his opponents in his career finale was stablemate Hoppertunity, who debuted in the exact same race as Bayern in January of 2014.
Now a stallion, Bayern is the early stages of his stud career. He is the father of El Bayern, winner of Woodbine's 2020 Muskoka Stakes; Bayerness, who was third in the 2020 Dogwood Stakes and Indiana Oaks, both Grade III contests; and Tempers Rising, the runner up in the 2020 Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks.
With that early promise, Bayern could have a fine stud career. And who knows? Maybe some of his progeny will show the speed, versatility and bravado that were hallmarks of their sire's time at the races.