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Chrome Tarnished

Posted by on 9/23/2014 9:50:35 PM

They say speed kills and handicappers watched as speed killed Bayern’s rivals including California Chrome in the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby last week.

Players always need to stay ground and realize pace makes the race. It does every day at every single track in the country but sometimes in big races, where the hype takes over, fans can overlook one of the basics of racing.

Going into the race, you didn’t really have to read in between the lines of trainer Art Sherman to know that there were doubts.

Before the race the trainer had a few interesting things to say, Sherman: “Well, you always wonder in the back of your mind but I’ll tell you one thing, when you put him with company, he’s a different horse.”

That reference could have went back to the way California Chrome was training at Los Alamitos before last weekend. He has some fast works and some okay works but that surface plays very fast and there are questions whether horses get extremely fit on the surface.

As Saturday’s race unfolded, Bob Baffert’s trainee Bayern went right to the lead and just tow-roped his field. C. J.’s Awesome tried to go with him early from the extreme outside slot but was really only a brief threat.

The interior splits proved the different. Bayern got away with a :24.07 first quarter. That kind of split is just unheard of in the West.

The colt, with Martin Garcia aloft, was in front after a half mile in :47.89, had a length and a half after three quarters in 1:10.88 and entered the lane with a 3-length lead. By the time they had finished the 9 furlongs, Bayern set a track record of 1:46.96. Selari Spirit set the prior track record back in 1974.

Bayern earned a career best 111 Beyer Speed Figure.

They say when one door closes, another opens up and one thing that came into Baffert’s mind was his other star Game on Dude that just retired.

Baffert : “When Bayern crossed the wire, the first thing in my mind, ‘there’s little Dude’. That’s a really good horse that can take it. 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.”

California Chrome’s trainer took it like a man, Sherman: “This race will do him a hell of a lot of good, I know that. 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. We’ll see them in the Breeders’ Cup.”

The silver lining for California Chrome is that he was not abused as rider Victor Espinoza knew he was up against it after a half mile and he did not ask his charge for every single ounce he had.

Looking ahead to November 1 and if these 2 show up in the Breeders’ Cup Classic both have raced well at Santa Anita. Bayern won his debut in Arcadia and then made it 2 for 2 beating allowance foes with a 98 Beyer.

California Chrome was troubled in his first start at Anita. Since that race, he is 3 for 3 at Anita with Beyers of 88, 108 and 107.

A showdown is imminent.

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