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Horse Racing

Bayern aiming to mimic namesake, capture glory at Travers Stakes

Bayern, with jockey Martin Garcia, outpaced the field in the Haskell Invitational and is gunning for a win in the Travers Stakes. Photo:

Bayern, with jockey Martin Garcia, outpaced the field in the Haskell Invitational and is gunning for a win in the Travers Stakes.

Ask a soccer fan if it’s been a good year for Bayern, and he’s likely to answer with a question: “Are you kidding me?”

Bayern Munich was crowned champions of the German Bundesliga for the 24th time and won the domestic cup for the 17th time. That doesn’t even get into the six Bayern players who started for Germany in the World Cup, or a seventh, Mario Gotze, who came off the bench to score the goal in extra time as Germany defeated Argentina, 1-0, to raise the trophy for the fourth time. So, yeah, good year.

Now, ask a horse racing fan if it’s been a good year for Bayern and he’s likely to respond, “So far, so good,” before adding, “a win at the Travers this weekend, and it’s been a great year.”

Bayern, the horse named after the team, is owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert. After a runaway victory at the Haskell – a Breeders’ Cup Win & You’re In event held at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, N.J. – on July 27, Bayern will be one of the favorites this weekend in the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“There’s certainly a lot to like about Bayern,” says Shah, 51, the founder and president of CalNet, a Virginia-based information technology company. “He was picked out at a two-year old training sale by my (now 16-year old) son, Arman, who loves to watch videos of horses training. A young lad who is very knowledgeable. He knows the business. He saw Bayern was a good mover. What he did in the Haskell, running away from the field, showed just how good a horse he is. The competition in the Travers is a big test, but we’re hopeful.”

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As for naming the horse after his favorite soccer team, Shah says, “I’m a huge soccer fan. I’m always watching games. Bayern Munich in recent times has been amongst the most powerful clubs in the world and one of soccer’s most powerful franchises. When Germany won the World Cup with so many Bayern players on the team, I was thrilled for them. Having a successful horse named after a team like that seems to make sense to me.”

By winning the Haskell, Bayern has already secured a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, which will be run on Nov. 1, at Santa Anita Park in Los Angeles. But a win in the $1 million Travers, a 1 ¼ mile race for 3-year olds, would make 2014 especially sweet. Included in the Travers’ field are Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist and Kentucky Derby runner-up Commanding Curve. Also in the field is Wicked Strong, who ran fourth in the Derby and the Belmont.

“To me, I really enjoy seeing our red, white and blue silks on the track,” says Shah. “Seeing our horses run is a thrill. Everyone loves to win and I love to win as much as anybody else. But winning or losing doesn’t make much of a difference in my love for horse racing.”

Shah is being modest. In 2014 alone, Shah Inc. horses have won in 18 of 50 starts. In a little more than 20 years in the game, Shah’s horses have won more than $6.5 million. As he mentioned earlier, he’s passed on his love for thoroughbreds to his son, just as his father Majeed, passed on his love for racing to him, as a boy growing up in India.

“My father was a very successful race horse trainer, India’s finest trainer,” says Shah. “He’s won two Triple Crown races in India, and many derbies. He’s constantly had top horses, similar to the success my trainer Bob Baffert has had here in the States. So, I’ve been around the game for a very, very long time.”

In 1985, Shah came to the United States to get a Masters in computer engineering at Clemson. He later earned a Masters in Business Administration from George Washington University. He splits his time between Northern Virginia and Southern California.

“We have headquarters in Virginia and offices in San Diego,” Shah says. “My first priority is my business. My second priority is my business. But I certainly love horse racing. Whenever I get a chance to get to the races, I do my best to be there. It is still a thrill to be there.”

Shah will be Saratoga this weekend, and he will be at Santa Anita in November.

“The Breeders’ Cup is the climax, not only for the horses in the United States, but also horses worldwide,” Shah says. “Horses of different ages. Horses who run different distances. It is a showcase of talent. It’s like the Olympics of our sport and I always look forward to it.”

At Saratoga this Saturday, in addition to the Travers, the Ballerina Stakes will be run, with the winner qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Additionally, on Sunday at Del Mar, the Pat O’Brien Stakes will be run, the winner qualifying for the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.

“We have a horse named Fed Biz running in the Pat O’Brien, so most my family will be there,” said Shah. “I will be at the Travers, cheering Bayern on.”

And hoping to cap a great year for the horse named after the team.

Breeders' Cup Challenge Series
Win & You're In
date network time (et) race track winner qualifies for post times (et)
August 23 NBC 4:30 p.m. Ballerina Stakes Saratoga Race Course Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint 5:08 p.m.
August 24 NBCSN 8:00 p.m. Pacific Classic Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Breeders' Cup Classic 8:44 p.m.
August 30 NBCSN 6:00 p.m. Forego Stakes Saratoga Race Course Breeders' Cup Sprint 6:45 p.m.
September 27 NBCSN 6:00 p.m. Jockey Club Gold Cup Belmont Park Breeders' Cup Classic 6:08 p.m.
September 27 NBCSN 6:00 p.m. TBD Santa Anita Park TBD 6:30 p.m.
September 27 NBCSN 6:00 p.m. TBD Santa Anita Park TBD 7:05 p.m.
September 27 NBCSN 6:00 p.m. Awesome Again Stakes Santa Anita Park Breeders' Cup Classic 7:45 p.m.
October 4 NBCSN 4:30 p.m. Jenny Wiley Stakes Keeneland Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf 4:35 p.m.
October 4 NBCSN 4:30 p.m. Breeders' Futurity Keeneland Breeders' Cup Juvenile 5:08 p.m.
October 4 NBCSN 4:30 p.m. Shadwell Mile Keeneland Breeders' Cup Mile 5:45 p.m.
October 5 NBC 5:00 p.m. Bourbon Stakes Keeneland Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf 5:08 p.m.
October 5 NBC 5:00 p.m. Spinster Stakes Keeneland Breeders' Cup Distaff 5:45 p.m.
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