02/07/2015 6:39PM

Dortmund refuses to lose in Robert Lewis

Benoit Photo
Dortmund wins the Robert Lewis Stakes by a head Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

ARCADIA, Calif. – In a thrilling rematch of their Los Alamitos Futurity duel in December, Dortmund again outbattled Firing Line, again prevailing by the length of his giant head, this time in the Grade 3, $150,000 Robert Lewis Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

 There were five 3-year-olds in the race, but for the final three furlongs of the 1 1/16-mile race, it was a match race between two of the West Coast’s leading contenders for the Kentucky Derby.

 Firing Line, racing on the outside under Gary Stevens, put as much as a length between he and Dortmund with a furlong to go, but Dortmund bravely re-rallied along the rail under Martin Garcia to win and remain unbeaten in four starts.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays

 Those two were an incredible 21 1/2 – yes, 21 1/2 -- lengths in front of third-place Rock Shandy. Hero Ten All, and Tizcano, the early pacesetter, completed the field, in that order. Sebastian’s Heart was scratched early Saturday morning.

 Dortmund ($3.20), the favorite, completed 1 1/16 miles on the fast main track in 1:42.20. It began to drizzle lightly before the race, but not enough to have impacted the surface in that short amount of time.

 Dortmund received 10 points for the win under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 2 Kentucky Derby, just as he did in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Firing Line earned four points, as he did in their last meeting, too.

 Garcia said Dortmund “moved slowly” when he first asked him to go after Firing Line, and he was concerned the cause was lost. “It looked like he was going to go by me easy,” Garcia said. But when Dortmund failed to lose contact and then re-engaged, Garcia thought he had a chance.

 “When I asked him at the end he kept coming back,” Garcia said.

Stevens blamed himself for Firing Line losing, saying he moved too soon.

 “I never thought I’d move too early moving at the eighth pole in a dirt race,” Stevens said. “But when he hit the front, he started idling.”

 Stevens said he thought he had Dortmund at the three-furlong pole, saying Garcia “asked his horse, and I hadn’t asked my horse yet.”

 Simon Callaghan, the trainer of Firing Line, said “he’s a very good horse who got beat by a very good horse.”

 Bob Baffert, who trains Dortmund for Kaleem Shah, pointed out that Dortmund in both the Lewis and Los Alamitos Futurity surged late to win.

 “That’s twice now he’s had to fight to come back and win,” Baffert said. “He’s got the talent, and he showed that grit.”

 Baffert said Dortmund, a son of Big Brown who towers over his rivals, is going through a growth spurt, and because of that, his immediate inclination was to skip next month’s San Felipe Stakes and instead await the Santa Anita Derby on April 4.