07/18/2016 11:06AM

Dortmund returns in new role: spoiler

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Dortmund, making his first start since November, will try to upset California Chrome in the San Diego Handicap on Saturday.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Dortmund has won 8 of 10 starts, six stakes, and has earned $1,712,480 so far in his career.

“Eight of 10, not many do that,” owner Kaleem Shah said.

The losses were a third in the Kentucky Derby and a fourth in the Preakness Stakes in May 2015, races won by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

“Don’t remind me about that,” Shah said.

Dortmund, by any measure, was brilliant as a 2- and 3-year-old. What he can accomplish at 4 will become known in the next month at Del Mar.

On Saturday, Dortmund is scheduled to have his first start of 2016 in the $200,000 San Diego Handicap at 1 1/16 miles, a prep for the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 20. Dortmund’s return will be overshadowed by the comeback of California Chrome, the 2014 Horse of the Year, who has not raced since winning the $10 million Dubai World Cup in March.

California Chrome will be favored and will be the sentimental choice of what is expected to be a large and enthusiastic crowd. Dortmund will have the role of primary spoiler in a small field.

Dortmund has not raced since winning the Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar last November. Through the winter, Dortmund was sidelined by a foot injury, trainer Bob Baffert said. Dortmund was days away from a start in the $500,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita in February when the foot problem forced him to skip the race.

Dortmund was eventually turned out for more than a month before resuming workouts in late May. On Sunday, Dortmund worked six furlongs in 1:12 in company with a stablemate.

“It’s all set,” Baffert said. “He was cruising.”

Shah, 54, has been in a similar situation with a top-class horse coming off a layoff. He won his richest race as an owner with Bayern in the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita in November 2014. Bayern’s 4-year-old debut was postponed until May 2015 because of minor issues, and when the colt returned, he failed to win in five starts and was retired in the fall. In hindsight, Shah regrets the way the campaign was managed.

“I wish we had given him time off after the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” Shah said. “Bob was trying to make the Dubai World Cup with him. He came up with small issues. Every horse needs a little break every so often.”

Shah, who lives in Virginia and spends much of the summer at Del Mar, runs the privately held information technology company CALNET, which provides support for American military and intelligence.

He rates Bayern and Dortmund as the best horses he has owned since his involvement in racing began in the mid-2000s. Bayern helped give Shah his best year in 2014, when the stable earned $5,977,978. The figure fell to $2,345,130 in 2015 and was $515,878 through Sunday.

“It’s been a dry run this year,” he said while watching workouts last weekend. “In this business, you have ups and downs.”

There have been positive signs in recent weeks. On July 10, Shah had two winners on the final day of the Santa Anita spring-summer meeting – in a maiden race for 2-year-olds with Klimt and in an optional claimer with Power Jam, who set a track record of 1:01.71 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

Klimt is a candidate for the $200,000 Best Pal Stakes here Aug. 13.

“Hopefully, as the distances get longer, he’ll get better,” Shah said of Klimt.

The San Diego’s distance should not be an issue for Dortmund. He won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles in April 2015 before he finished three lengths behind American Pharoah as the 4-1 second choice in the Kentucky Derby at 1 1/4 miles a month later. In the Native Diver, at 1 1/8 miles, Dortmund won by 4 1/4 lengths, his widest margin of victory in a stakes.

Those performances give Shah hope that Dortmund can test California Chrome in the San Diego.

“I want Dortmund to come back running,” he said. “As long as we see the old Dortmund, it will be a fun race.”