Bayern, a lesson on genotype and pace
The racing performances of the Bob Baffert trainee Bayern confuses most pedigree guys. Bayern is by Offlee Wild, a son of Wild Again who placed in the Bluegrass Stakes G1 as a three year old and as a five year old won the Suburban Hcp G1 over a mile and a quarter (2000m). Bayern's dam is by the Kentucky Derby/Belmont/Travers Stakes winner Thunder Gulch. A basic pedigree read by most would say that he should have no problems going a mile and a quarter, maybe even a mile and a half against his own age group.
For us he is a completely different horse to what his pedigree and common thought suggests.
We first spotted this Grade One winner at the Fasig Tipton Maryland 2YO Sale with our soon to be released biomechanics program. The software, which will allow us to offer a commercial product in 2015 now that the bulk of the information is starting to mature, identified this colt (along with the stakes winning filly Miss Narcissist and the highly promising Sea Raven) as one of 8 horses that were potentially elite based on their stride length, duty factor (the amount of time that each foot is on the ground in a stride) and a couple of other measures that we use to separate out the wheat from the chaff.
Bayern has a fantastically efficient action (for us, the best at the sale that year) and it is coupled with an acceptable, but certainly not outstanding cardiovascular system (its more a miler cardio than a big two-turn/route one). Where it got interesting, at least for us, was his genotype which really told us what he was most likely to be effective as.
We look at two single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to ascertain the optimal distance that a horse would like to run. On the first SNP, a T:T is a sprinter, C:T a miler and a C:C a distance runner while the other SNP is the reverse with the C:C horses being sprinters, C:T horses milers and T:T horses distance runners. These SNPs reside on chromosome 18 in the myostatin loci with the gene myostatin being a regulator of muscle mass.
The horses that are sprinters tend to be T:T/C:C horses, that is they are homozygous for sprinting on both the SNPs that we test. We often see horses that are good milers in North America that are T:T (sprinters) on the first SNP and C:T horses on the other SNP, or C:T/C:T horses while we rarely see a C:C/T:T (distance) runner at all in North America, especially at the two year old in training sales.
Bayern is a T:T / C:C so by his genetic measure of his myostatin variation he should be a sprinter. That seems surprising to many, especially the pedigree guys, but it is what it is. In the roll of the genetic dice he came up as a sprinter, which made him a great 2YO Sales prospect (sprinter genotypes with two-turn bodies seem to do really well at those types of sales) but also means that when he matures he is going to be more effective going short than long.
In saying this, there are a couple of nuances that need to be understood. While he has a sprinting genotype, because of his physical structure he was not going to ever be a five furlong one dimensional sprinter. Where the pure sprinter tends to have a shorter stride and rely on turnover to win, Bayern has a relatively long stride which makes him more adaptable and capable of running further. This means that getting up to a mile is well in his wheelhouse, even as he ages so he's is more like Caleb's Posse than Caller One (all three have the same genotype for distance) in that respect.
The other nuance goes back to the old saying "they can all win at a distance if they go slow enough...." We saw this in the Haskell where they left Bayern alone to carve out his own fractions with his very economical stride. He was always going to outsprint them to the line because that is what he can do better than anyone else in the field.
At the time of the Haskell we were hopeful that his trainer would have sent Bayern towards the King's Bishop where we think he would have given the field a proper dusting and shown his talent at its best. It wasn't to be and the pressure and distance of the Travers Stakes found him out. Still, the Breeders' Cup is 68 days away which is plenty of time for Bayern to be freshened up and pointed to races that are more suitable to his genotype and a race like the Malibu Stakes at the end of the year over 7 furlongs looks to be at his mercy.