BENSALEM, Pa. -- Halfway through the $1-million Pennsylvania Derby, trainer Art Sherman already knew it wouldn't be California Chrome's day. One-dimensional Bayern was loping along on the lead, heading for a track record, and "Chromie" had no chance to catch him.
Parx's marquee event played out like a rerun of the Haskell as Bayern dominated Saturday by 5¾ lengths, 1½ lengths short of his margin July 27 at Monmouth Park. In between, he finished last of 10, 20 lengths back, in the Travers, when he faced early pressure and folded.
"When I saw the fraction for the half was 47 and change, the way the track was playing toward speed, I knew we were in trouble," Sherman said. "Once [Bayern] gets away like that, he's gone."
California Chrome had nothing left in the final furlong, when the 4-5 favorite faded to sixth, seven lengths behind, his worst performance since a sixth-place finish last Nov. 1 at Santa Anita. "He got a little leg-weary," Sherman said. The flop off a 3½-month layoff continued a historical trend. He's the seventh of the last nine Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners to lose his comeback race after being beaten in the Belmont Stakes.
California Chrome's star power drew an estimated crowd of 16,000 (Parx, which doubles as a casino, has no turnstiles) and 60 credentialed media to a track where racing usually is an afterthought. The people's horse made an appearance but didn't show up. Like Sherman, jockey Victor Espinoza blamed the pace scenario and traffic trouble.
Until the eighth pole, California Chrome held his position in third along the rail, unable to get out as C J's Awsesome hemmed him in. "We broke running but the pace really slowed down," Espinoza said. "I wanted to go a little faster but I was trapped on the inside. It was just one of those days."
Sherman tried to be philosophical despite having little to be upbeat about.
"With a race under his belt, coming off a long layoff, he should be stronger next time," he said. "We'll take him home and train him. We'll catch Bayern in the Breeders' Cup [Classic]. My horse will be a lot stronger the next time he runs."
He'll have to be after getting passed by 33-1 shot Noble Moon and 27-1 C J's Awesome, who dead-heated for fourth. Tapiture was second and Candy Boy third.
Sherman was asked if he thought his colt's reputation took a major hit. "Now with the Belmont, he's gotten beat twice," he said. "So I don't know."
Most, even Chrome's biggest fans, would have to say yes.
Bayern, trained by Bob Baffert, paid $9 after zipping 11/8 miles in 1:46.96 for Martin Garcia. His fifth win in nine career starts, and third stakes victory in his last four races, was worth $562,000, raising his earnings for Kaleem Shah to more than $1.6 million.
"When California Chrome was pinned in there," Baffert said, "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."