Updated on 04/08/2015 8:37AM

Dortmund dominant in Santa Anita Derby

Benoit & Associates
Dortmund, ridden by Martin Garcia, preserves his perfect record with a 4 1/4-length win in the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Kaleem Shah is a student of racing. He studies pedigrees. He studies the history.

So, even though his colt Dortmund already had earned enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby prior to the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, what Shah wanted as much as anything – the $600,000 winner’s share, confirmation that he has the best 3-year-old racing in California – was for Dortmund to keep his unbeaten record intact heading into the Kentucky Derby.

“Like Seattle Slew, Smarty Jones,” Shah said, ticking off the names of a couple of horses who remained unbeaten through their Kentucky Derby wins.

Now, Dortmund will get a chance to join their company. He closed out his flawless prep season at Santa Anita with his most lopsided stakes win yet, a 4 1/4-length romp in the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby. He was expected to win, as his $3.20 win price reflects, but he was not expected to be so dominant, what with highly regarded opponents such as Prospect Park and Bolo considered his primary challengers.

Instead, Dortmund left them all in the dust. His Bob Baffert-trained stablemate, One Lucky Dane, was closest to him the whole way and wound up second, 2 1/4 lengths in front of Bolo, who outfinished Prospect Park and Cross the Line in a three-way photo finish for third. Bad Read Sanchez trailed.

Dortmund, ridden by Martin Garcia, completed 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:48.73. He has won all six of his starts.

“I was so nervous,” Shah said. “Normally, I’m not nervous. But today, there was a lot on the line, 6 for 6.”

Dortmund bobbled a bit just after the start but still got to the front. Baffert said after the race that Dortmund lost his right front shoe at the start. Despite that, Dortmund set fractions of 22.46 seconds for the opening quarter, 46.36 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:10.57 for six furlongs. One Lucky Dane was closest the whole way, the pace made easier for them when longshot Bad Read Sanchez was rated early, even though he had shown speed in sprints.

Garcia said Dortmund, a big, hulking horse, “is still learning.”

“When someone comes up next to him, he takes off again,” Garcia said.

Both Dortmund and One Lucky Dane will go on toward the Kentucky Derby on May 2 at Churchill Downs. Baffert is expected to have a third Derby runner in American Pharoah, who will have his final Derby prep in the Arkansas Derby next Saturday. He already has enough points to get into the Derby and will be a heavy favorite in Arkansas.

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“I can’t believe it. I’m so fortunate to have so many good 3-year-olds,” said Baffert, who extended his own record for the most Santa Anita Derby victories to seven, all earned in the last 20 runnings.

Baffert said he was concerned about this race with Dortmund owing to his rail draw. “It’s just tough,” he said. He said Garcia knew that an alert start was paramount. “He needed to get out of there,” Baffert said.

Now, Dortmund will head back to Kentucky. Although he is based in California, Dortmund has the advantage of having had a race over the Churchill Downs track. It came last fall in his second start, following a debut win at Santa Anita in November.

Baffert wanted to get a prep into Dortmund before the Los Alamitos Futurity in December but was reluctant to run him on Polytrack at Del Mar, which that track had for its fall meet. So, Dortmund traveled to Churchill Downs for a mere allowance race. It was a means to an immediate end with the Los Alamitos Futurity but now may prove to have even more significant benefits four weeks hence.