Updated on 09/23/2014 9:07AM

Bayern sets track record in Pennsylvania Derby triumph

Barbara D. Livingston
Bayern set a track record in winning the 1 1/8-mile Pennsylvania Derby in 1:46.96 Saturday at Parx.

BENSALEM, Pa. - As he watched on television his 3-year-old Bayern dominate Saturday’s Grade 2, $1 million Pennsylvania Derby-  a field that included Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner California Chrome - trainer Bob Baffert had a flashback.

“When he crossed the wire the first thing in my mind, ‘There’s little Dude,’ ” Baffert said from his home in Southern California.

Baffert was referring to Game On Dude, his multiple Grade 1-winning gelding whose retirement was announced this week.

“The sad part about Dude is that we’re not going to be able to see him run again because he brought so much joy,” Baffert said.  “When you have a really good horse you watch him run; he’s a gelding and you know he’s going to be around for a long time.”

Bayern is not a gelding and he will definitely have a future as a stallion. The brilliant speed that carried him to victories in the $1 million Haskell at Monmouth in July and the Grade 2 Woody Stephens at Belmont Park in June was on display again Saturday at Parx, where, under Martin Garcia, Bayern galloped to a front-running, 5 3/4-length victory in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby.

After setting leisurely fractions of 24.07 seconds for the first quarter and 47.89 for the half-mile, Bayern covered the 1 1/8 miles in a track record time of 1:46.96. The previous mark of 1:47 was established by Selari Sprit in 1974. Bayern, the second choice at 7-2, returned $9 to win.

Tapiture rallied from off the pace to get second by a head over Candy Boy. Noble Moon and C.J.’s Awesome finished in a dead-heat for fourth while California Chrome finished sixth, beaten 7 1/4 lengths. Protonico and Classic Giacnroll completed the order of finish.

The sixth-place finish for California Chrome was his worst since he ran sixth in the Golden State Juvenile Stakes at Santa Anita last Nov. 1.

Breaking from the rail - which was the place to be Saturday at Parx - California Chrome was third entering the first turn, boxed in by Protonico around the turn. Under Victor Espinoza, California Chrome could never get clear running room down the backside.

In the stretch, as Bayern galloped away from the field, California Chrome faded, perhaps showing some effect from a 105-day layoff since his fourth-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.

“The horse hadn’t been out in a long time. This race will do him a hell of a lot of good, I know that,” Art Sherman, the trainer of California Chrome said. “He’s a funny horse; if he gets down in there and you have to keep checking him and checking him he gets a little disinterested, but I’m not making any excuses, he was there and didn’t go. As long as he comes back good and sound I’ll be happy.”

Said Espinoza: “It was a little bit stressful in the first turn. I know they went so slow, and I couldn’t do anything about it.”

The connections of Bayern said their horse didn’t like the Saratoga main track as an excuse for his last-place finish in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 23. But since Garcia didn’t abuse him in that race, Bayern returned to Southern California in good shape. After two solid works at Santa Anita, Baffert decided to ship the horse east for a third time, having made cross-country trips to New Jersey and New York earlier in the summer.

“That’s a really good horse that can take it,” Baffert said. “California Chrome, we got him on an off day. When he was stuck on the rail there behind horses they made it tough for him. Today was our day.”

Bayern and California Chrome- along with Candy Boy and likely Tapiture - were expected to be flown back to Southern California on Sunday. While California Chrome will definitely be pointed to the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 1, Baffert said he will wait until the last minute to decide whether to point Bayern to the Classic or the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, that race being run on Oct. 31.

By virtue of his victory in the Haskell, Bayern has a fees-paid berth into the Classic should Baffert choose to use it. He can also use that money towards the Dirt Mile as well. Kaleem Shah, owner of Bayern, said he would let Baffert make that call.

“We’re going to get him back here [to Santa Anita]. We’re just 100 yards away from making that decision. It’s an easy walk from our barn to the paddock,” Baffert said. “I won’t make that decision for a while.”

For his part, Sherman is already looking ahead to the Classic.

“We’ll see them in the Breeders’ Cup,” he said.

All-sources handle at Parx Saturday was $10,396,671, an 88 percent increase over last year’s figure of $5,519,896. Officials did not have an official attendance, but estimated it at 16,000-plus, according to Joe Wilson, the track’s chief operating officer.