12/18/2014 1:29PM

Dortmund makes stakes debut in Los Alamitos Futurity

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Dortmund, an allowance winner his last out, will try a stakes for the first time Saturday in the Los Alamitos Futurity at Los Alamitos Race Course.

On a Saturday morning at Santa Anita the weekend prior to the Breeders’ Cup, trainer Bob Baffert was working a number of his horses for starts the following weekend. In the midst of all that activity, he sent a text to a reporter that read simply: “Watch gate work coming. Next star.”

Coming from a guy whose strike rate at touting horses is quite strong, this was a powerful endorsement. A few moments later, a big chestnut colt came lumbering out of the gate, towering over his workmate, and effortlessly blazed through a six-furlong drill in 1:11.40.

On Nov. 2, that colt, named Dortmund, rolled to an impressive 4 3/4-length win against maidens. But it was his subsequent performance, on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs, that announced Dortmund to the country. In a one-turn mile allowance race, he cruised to a 7 3/4-length victory, his win so dominating that it overshadowed that day’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill and left Dortmund the shortest price among individual betting interests in Pool 1 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager.

To date, though, Dortmund has yet to run in a stakes and has yet to run around two turns. Those are the next hurdles he will attempt to clear, and that will happen Saturday, when Dortmund heads the field in the Grade 1, $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles.

The Los Alamitos Futurity was known as the CashCall Futurity when it was run at Hollywood Park, which closed last year. Over the years, it had an uncanny record of providing a showcase for 2-year-olds who would go on to be important 3-year-olds, including last year, when it was won by Shared Belief, who clinched an Eclipse Award in the process.

The chances of Dortmund being able to parlay a win Saturday into a championship are remote, being as two-time Grade 1 winner American Pharoah and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red are considered the top two candidates for the title. But another win by Dortmund could strengthen the belief that at present, he is the most exciting prospect of his generation.

Four others will be out to deny him, including Mr. Z, who ran a deceptively good race in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and followed that with a near miss in the Delta Jackpot. The stakes winner No Problem and the maiden winners Firing Line and Bench Warrant – all trying two turns for the first time – round out the field.

:: LOS ALAMITOS FUTURITY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

Key contenders

Dortmund (Last 2 Beyers: 97-81)

* He towers over the field off speed figures, with his last number the best in the field, and he towers over the field physically, too.

“He’s 16-3,” Baffert said, referring to his height in hands. “He’s just a big old dude. He’s a big, Point Given-type horse, but he’s quick.”

Baffert said Dortmund is “ready enough to go two turns.”

“He’s actually settled down,” Baffert said. “We’ve been able to get him to breeze without him getting rank.”

Mr. Z (Last 3 Beyers: 90-89-80)

Though he has just one win in seven starts, he has a decided edge in experience over his rivals. This will be his eighth start, and it will come at the sixth track at which he has raced.

His last two races, both with blinkers, have been his best.

Firing Line (Last 2 Beyers: 87-86)

He was an unlucky loser in his debut at Santa Anita, but he made amends with an impressive victory against maidens at Del Mar.

It is interesting to note that Mike Smith, who rode him in his first two starts, wound up on Mr. Z, so Rafael Bejarano takes over.

No Problem (Last 3 Beyers: 76-71-58)

He showed a tremendous amount of grit to prevail in the Grade 3 Bob Hope at Del Mar.

He and Dortmund are the only horses in the field with more than one win.

Bench Warrant (Last 2 Beyers: 68-72)

He won nicely when making his debut at Del Mar in July but was absent for four months before a moderate effort when third in an allowance race last month also at Del Mar.

He is the only horse in the field who never has raced on dirt.