By Annie Ross

California Chrome turned out to be less than the cream of the Pennsylvania Derby crop yesterday at Parx Racing.

After not racing for 105 days, after traveling across the country for the second time this year, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who missed the Triple Crown by less than two lengths faded to sixth place in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

Bayern, the winner of the Haskell Invitational and off at 3-1 odds (the second choice behind California Chrome at 4-5), went gate to wire for trainer Bob Baffert, jockey Martin Garcia and owner Kaleem Shah. Bayern set a track record by running the 1 1/8 miles in 1 minute, 46.96 seconds. Tapiture was second, 5¾ lengths behind, and Candy Boy, the third California horse, finished third for trainer John Sadler.

“I thought he got tired out there,” said Art Sherman, California Chrome’s trainer. “The pace was a little bit slower. I wish he could have gone on with them. He was in a precarious spot again there on the rail. I hoped (jockey Victor Espinoza) could get him out, but he couldn’t get him out to catch those other horses. He hasn’t run in a long time, so he probably needed the race. He’ll be back.”

Alan Sherman, Art’s son and California Chrome’s assistant trainer, agreed.

“He got tired. He kind of got stuck down there on the rail,” he said. “I figured that was going to happen. He just never had a chance to get out. He’s tired, and he needed the race. He’ll be double tough next time.”

Espinoza, who guided Chrome to six straight victories this year, knows his horse, and he knew he faced a daunting task early on. The first quarter was run in a slow 24 seconds. And Espinoza thought going in that the colt might be a bit short for this tough race.

“I knew I was in trouble on the first turn,” Espinoza said. “They went out smoking out of the gate, and then they really slowed down, like they were walking in front of me. It was going to be hard to catch (Bayern). Sometimes they don’t ride to win; they ride to beat you. But I didn’t want to abuse him today. I was desperate to get him out, but I wanted him to run his race and not override him. He has a long time off. I think this race will set him up for the next one.”

Baffert wasn’t at the track, but he spoke to the media after the race via his assistant’s cellphone.

“That was just a powerful performance,” Baffert said from his home in Arcadia. “He broke well, and they let us go, and Martin hustled to get away from California Chrome. When California Chrome was pinned in there, I knew it was going to be tough for (him). He was the target — we weren’t the target. When Bayern runs like that, nobody’s going to beat him — like in the Haskell. Today he looked like he was always in command. When he shows up, he’s just brilliant. It was a great win. I’m excited about it. Bayern has shown so much brilliance that when he got beat in the Travers, it was tough to figure.”

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