11/28/2015 8:30PM

Dortmund overpowers rivals in Native Diver

Benoit Photo
Dortmund wins the Native Diver Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths Saturday at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – With American Pharoah now retired, the baton has been passed in trainer Bob Baffert’s barn to Dortmund, who couldn’t handle American Pharoah earlier this year in the Kentucky Derby or Preakness but certainly looked ready to take on all comers Saturday with an overpowering victory in the Grade 3, $150,000 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar.

The race and jockey assignment were both audibles. Dortmund originally was slated to run Friday at Churchill Downs in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap, with Martin Garcia, but he came up with a slight quarter crack coming out of a workout, forcing Baffert to keep him home.

With Garcia tied up Saturday at Churchill Downs for Baffert with Mor Spirit in the Kentucky Jockey Club, Baffert put Gary Stevens up on Dortmund. For Stevens, he said it reminded him of riding another big boy for Baffert years ago.

“He’s as big as Point Given was,” said Stevens, who won the Preakness and Belmont, among other races, on Point Given. “When I got legged up, I felt like I was going back in time.”

Dortmund ($3.20) then went out and made a mockery of the race, cruising home 4 1/2 lengths best while toting the high weight of 124 pounds. Imperative finished second, 1 1/2 lengths in front of Iron Fist. Big Cazanova and Majestic City completed the order of finish.

Cat Burglar and Yahilwa were scratched in the morning, leaving a field of five.

Dortmund covered 1 1/8 miles on the fast main track in 1:48.06. He has won eight times in 10 starts. His only losses came in the Derby, in which he was third, and the Preakness, in which he was fourth.

“He’s a big, long-striding horse,” said Stevens. “He’s got a big engine. I didn’t know how much acceleration he had, but he hit another gear at the five-sixteenths pole. He’s got sprinter speed, but he acts like he can run a mile and a quarter.”

Dortmund has won races ranging from 6 1/2 furlongs to 1 1/8 miles. His next start is scheduled to be in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at seven furlongs Dec. 26, Santa Anita’s opening day.

The route into that race hopefully will be smoother for owner Kaleem Shah, who admitted he had “a knot in my stomach” when Baffert called earlier in the week about the quarter crack.

“You fear the worst but hope for the best,” said Shah.

Dortmund put his best foot forward Saturday.

“He really put on a show today,” said Shah.