01/06/2016 11:37AM

2015 Eclipse Awards: Dortmund

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Benoit and Associates

It’s hard to cast a shadow over Dortmund. The big, beautiful, chestnut-colored colt towers physically over his rivals. In 2015, though, he was the understudy in the Bob Baffert barn to fellow 3-year-old American Pharoah, the Triple Crown winner and the obvious favorite to be named champion 3-year-old male. Yet Dortmund accomplished so much during the year that he was deserving of a top-three placing in this division, and thus a finalist.

Dortmund, like American Pharoah, tipped his hand at age 2, winning a Grade 1 race, in his case the Los Alamitos Futurity. Dortmund entered 2015 with a perfect 3-for-3 record and increased that streak to six straight by winning his first three starts of the year, all in graded stakes races, all at Santa Anita. He out-dueled Firing Line in a thrilling Grade 3 Robert Lewis, turned back Prospect Park and Bolo in the Grade 2 San Felipe, and culminated his Kentucky Derby prep season with a runaway victory in the Santa Anita Derby, making him a two-time Grade 1 winner.

He went into the Kentucky Derby as the second choice to American Pharoah and finished third behind American Pharoah and Firing Line after leading for the first mile of the 1 1/4-mile classic. It was the first time he had been defeated. Dortmund was brought back two weeks later in the Preakness, but was never comfortable on the sloppy track at Pimlico and faded to finish fourth.

:: 2015 Eclipse Awards: Finalist profiles

The demands of the first five months of the year – five races, including two Triple Crown events – took a toll on Dortmund. He lost weight, prompting Baffert to give him a summer vacation in the hope of coming back strongly in the fall. And that he did. Dortmund returned after five months on the sidelines to win a pair of stakes while facing older runners for the first time, in the overnight Big Bear at Santa Anita and then the Grade 3 Native Diver at Del Mar. The Native Diver was a fallback race for Dortmund, who initially was going to run in the Grade 1 Clark at Churchill Downs but had those plans altered owing to a quarter crack.

Dortmund thus ended the year having won five times in seven starts, with four victories in graded stakes competition. He earned more than $1.3 million to bring his lifetime total to more than $1.7 million, a tremendous return on investment considering that owner Kaleem Shah acquired Dortmund for $140,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale. Shah named Dortmund after one of his favorite soccer teams in Germany.

Dortmund, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown out of the Tale of the Cat mare Our Josephina, was bred in Kentucky by Emilie Fojan. He has remained in training as a 4-year-old and is scheduled to race this winter at Santa Anita, a track where he is 5 for 5 and where, significantly, the 2016 Breeders’ Cup will be held in November.