12/21/2014 10:58AM

Road to the Derby analysis: Los Alamitos Futurity

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Benoit & Associates
Dortmund wins the Los Alamitos Futurity on Saturday at Los Alamitos Race Course.

Grade 1, $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity, 1 1/16 miles, Los Alamitos, Dec. 20, 2014
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Dortmund
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Martin Garcia
Owner: Kaleem Shah, Inc.
Beyer Speed Figure: 91

The Los Alamitos Futurity was the final scoring race of the year for 2-year-olds, and in terms of drama, the best was saved for last. DORTMUND out-finished FIRING LINE and MR. Z following a dramatic stretch duel in which the three runners were alongside one another for the final three-sixteenths of a mile. It was great theater.

Dortmund, widest of all, got up in the shadow of the wire to prevail by a head, with Firing Line a nose in front of Mr. Z. It was a long way back to the other two runners, BENCH WARRANT and NO PROBLEM.

Dortmund had an ideal trip, settling into third as the field went into the first turn while Mr. Z and Firing Line battled through fractions of 21.98 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 45.29 for a half-mile, and 1:09.64 for six furlongs.

Dortmund did get a bit rank heading into the backstretch and was forced to race quite wide down the backstretch and into the far turn because Mr. Z was well off the rail. Dortmund loomed menacingly on the final turn, but it took him every step of the elongated stretch at Los Alamitos to get up, with jockey Martin Garcia choosing to focus on winning the race rather than the California Horse Racing Board’s rules on whipping. Garcia never relented in the final sixteenth of a mile, and Dortmund responded.

Dortmund’s final time of 1:40.86 for 1 1/16 miles was a track record, but since this is the first year of two-turn Thoroughbred racing at Los Alamitos and since that distance has been run just a few times, that is not germane to the conversation. Dortmund’s time compared quite favorably with the time of 1:42.23 by Baccelo when winning a second-level allowance for older horses three races earlier on the card.

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

Baccelo received a Beyer Speed Figure of 88 for that effort. Dortmund got a 91. According to Andrew Beyer, who makes his eponymous Beyer Speed Figures for Southern California, the Los Alamitos track “definitely got faster late,” so Beyer applied a different variant to the allowance race and the Futurity. Otherwise, Dortmund’s fig would have been much faster, or Baccelo’s would have been much slower.

For those who had been dazzled by the runaway performances of Dortmund in his first two starts, this may have been a disappointment. One school of thought might be that since this was his first start around two turns and his first time in a stakes race, he was exposed as not being as good as his first two races made him appear. Another school of thought could be that he has come a long way in the seven weeks since his debut and that he may not have been at his absolute best coming back just 21 days after a trip to and from Churchill Downs for an allowance win.

I’m in the latter camp. I believe Dortmund is among the best in the division and that had he come into the Los Alamitos Futurity with more rest and off a local prep, he would have performed better. In addition, he is a big colt who only figures to improve with age. We’ll find out more next time, but I’m buying, not selling.

As for Firing Line, who was second, he ran a tremendous race and just missed in his first try around two turns and in a stakes race. In addition, he was quite agitated in the saddling paddock – he kicked the back wall of his saddling stall three times – and even acted immaturely in the paddock when Rafael Bejarano first got on him. If he can save more of that energy for his races, look out. He also was compromised by Mr. Z, who was lugging out the final six furlongs of the race and repeatedly bumped Firing Line.

Mr. Z, who was third, was right there despite not wanting to run straight. A head-on view of the backstretch run shows how well off the rail he was, with jockey Mike Smith tugging on his left rein to try to control him. Smith said after the race his left arm ached from the effort and that if he had let Mr. Z drift, he would have interfered with the horses next to him.

Still, Mr. Z ran a courageous race and has done well shipping all over the country. It will be interesting to see if his antics in this race were a one-time issue or a preview of coming attractions.

Bench Warrant, who was fourth, trailed much of the race and only passed the exhausted No Problem in the final furlong. He never was a factor.

No Problem, who was fifth and last, hugged the rail throughout and actually got within hailing distance of the top three nearing the top of the stretch, but he fell apart in the final furlong and likely needs a return to sprints and softer competition.

Ian Chef King More than 1 year ago
Even though Dortmund appear not superior, he has lots of potential and would prove worthy of top billing in the classics!
Joel Firsching More than 1 year ago
So the excessive whipping rule is an item that you buy, not a take down. Wont all jockeys buy this item in races with large purses ? All out efforts for lasix using juvenile colts is bad for their future.
[removed] More than 1 year ago
This comment has been deleted
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Russell, first off Merry Christmas to you. Now come on, you know better. This race may or may not lead to a future for these....( I happen to think it will)..but being a 5 horse race does NOT mean that it is any less significant. Many great races had few horses in it....Secretariat's beautiful Belmont run is a good example. This young horses are good.....very good.
Frank Reach More than 1 year ago
Dortmund is a nice horse. Is it just me? Or do you guys think Mr. Z was waiting in his last race and then again the other day. I watched those replays and it looks like Mr. Z runs on and then waits...not wanting his head in front. Not sure if I'm right or not...probably doesn't matter anyway....but, if I was Lukas I would make one run with Mr. Z and make him come from off the pace.....maybe then he won't pull himself up. For those who don't think Firing Line and Dortmund aren't the real deal....all I have to say is I think they are. Dortmund is very big and he is still learning. I admit, I tried to beat him in this race....but, I do think he is very good. Should be a fun spring. Have a happy new year everyone!
Brian Shaw More than 1 year ago
No way this race was a 91. Think high 90s low 100s.
Carlo Campanella More than 1 year ago
Toss in exceptions for DORTMUND like he was going 2-turns for the first time in his career and doing it on a new surface (Los Al) that typically favors speed and he's still just an "average" KY Derby contender. To believe he's something special, you would have to say that ALL 3 of these are special horses since they're all a head bob apart at the wire. MR. Z was one of those that lost the bob at the wire and he's a 1-time winner from 8 career starts, only winnning a MSW at CD and he's lost to I Spent It (by 2 lengths), Carpe Diem (by 6 lengths), Ocho Ocho Ocho (by a head), Texas Red (by 10+). The other head bob loser was FIRING LINE, who also has only won a MSW. NONE of these are "special" when it comes to the KY Derby, albeit they're solid 2-year-olds that will take their share of Graded Stakes, but will DORTMUND be a major player in the KY Derby? NO! EVen if he does improve with seasoning. Of the three, FIRING LINE will be the best.
Mike More than 1 year ago
Right, and if Dortmund had won by 5 like everyone expected in 1:40.86 in a track record, you would've complained about the competition being bad and the field being small. You'd find something wrong with the horse. Fact is, Firing Line is a future star in the making, just watch all 3 of his races thus far. Mr Z. was a seasoned and experienced horse who was almost getting there in many of his races and who was also peaking for this race. Firing Line and Mr. Z really just ran that well in my opinion, Firing Line was no fluke and at the same time, I don't think Mr. Z will run close to Dortmund or Firing Line in the future. Dortmund was wide, didn't handle the first turn and rank early, he was held back and turned off a couple times by Martin Garcia. Wait until this horse puts it all together, you will see.
d More than 1 year ago
and now, I am 100% CORRECT.... 1.) NONE OF THOSE 3 WON THE DERBY 2.) FIRING LINE beat both of them in the Derby
Derbyologist More than 1 year ago
Dortmund ran widest of all. Bacello took the length of the stretch to get by Prime Issue, Magic Lilly was game, Mr. Z Game and the last race 3 and 6 game to the last 50 feet. Seems odd in every race the pacesetters were game to the wire.
jim More than 1 year ago
I jumped off of the Dortmund bandwagon right after the finish line. He was exposed to be a nice type horse, but not quite up to the demanding challenges he will face in the future. I haven't heard Baffert's comparison between Dorty and American Pharoah, but after yesterdays race, I would assume that Baffert will look to the Pharoah as his main focus for the classics next spring. I would think the 91 beyer is pretty well in line with the type of horses that ran yesterday, which means these three in the Futurity are really nice horses, but not champions. IMHO