02/08/2015 12:53PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Robert Lewis Stakes

Benoit Photo
Dortmund (right) beats Firing Line in the Robert Lewis Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita Park.

Grade 3, $150,000 Robert Lewis Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Santa Anita, Feb. 7, 2015
(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: 103

This was a rematch of the Los Alamitos Futurity from seven weeks prior, in which DORTMUND and FIRING LINE ran one-two while separated by a head after 1 1/16 miles. The result was exactly the same here, except that Dortmund and Firing Line got a faster Beyer Speed Figure while obliterating their rivals and further cementing their status as two of the elite 3-year-olds on the West Coast.

The final time of 1:42.20 compared favorably to the only other 1 1/16-mile race on the card, a maiden race run one hour earlier that was won by Cyrus Alexander – the half-brother to Super Saver, who cost $1.7 million as a yearling – in 1:44.41.

Dortmund was on his toes in the paddock, and with his outside post in the field of five, it was key for jockey Martin Garcia to try to get him to relax early in the race, something Garcia and trainer Bob Baffert have been trying to impress upon Dortmund in his recent workouts.

Dortmund was eager to go leaving the gate, but he cooperated with Garcia’s attempts to get him to sit off TIZCANO, who was hustled away from the gate to make the lead from his inside draw.

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

Dortmund sat just outside Tizcano until halfway through the race, when he and Firing Line moved past Tizcano in tandem and turned the Lewis into a match race. Dortmund was asked aggressively by Garcia with five-sixteenths of a mile to go, and it appeared at that point that Firing Line was going the better of the two.

As the field entered the lane, Firing Line gradually increased his advantage to as much as a length with a furlong to go, but Dortmund surged anew along the rail under steady left-handed whipping from Garcia and prevailed to keep his unbeaten record intact.

Dortmund is a huge colt, and after the race, Baffert said Dortmund is going through a growth spurt, which is kind of frightening, being that he’s so big already. Because of the growth spurt, Baffert said his initial thought was to skip the San Felipe Stakes in March and await the Santa Anita Derby on April 4, which would give Dortmund one more prep prior to the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Firing Line suffered his second straight heartbreaking loss, but considering he was 21 1/2 lengths in front of the next horse, he ran a race good enough to win just about any other time.

Firing Line didn’t leave the gate cleanly and found himself three paths wide on the first turn while appearing keen to go faster, especially when the field turned down the backside. He had the advantage of racing outside Dortmund after they turned it into a match race but couldn’t hold off his rival.

Gary Stevens, who rode Firing Line, said he moved too soon and that Firing Line “started idling” when he hit the front. Perhaps, but considering Firing Line did not catch Dortmund on the gallop out, the reason for not holding off Dortmund in the race might be that 1) Dortmund is better and 2) Firing Line is reaching the outer limits of what distances he can best handle.

ROCK SHANDY, who finished third because someone had to, bore out a bit heading around the first turn, was asked aggressively with three furlongs to go, and watched the two leaders become dots on the horizon.

HERO TEN ALL, who was misbehaving in the walking ring and generally acting like a brat, trailed early and merely passed the exhausted Tizcano to finish fourth.

Tizcano was done after a half-mile and faded to finish last of five, beaten more than 45 lengths.

gary Potter More than 1 year ago
Dortmund is very impressive and if he is continuing to grow, that is scary. Whats really a shame is the 5 horse fields at Santa Anita, 20 horses in the Derby is like a stampede. Hopefully the west coast can find some horses to run in the Santa Anita Derby to give him a decent size field so he actually prep for the Derby. Oh and the payouts???? $5.50 for a triple.
tommy More than 1 year ago
Firing line needs a jockey upgrade if he wants to contend in the Kentucky derby
Jim More than 1 year ago
Thank you. The horse idled because Stevens stopped riding aggressively. Give the mount to a rider who isn't 55 yrs. old with two artificial knees. Sorry, Gary.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
While Dortmund remains atop my KD list, one colt that definitely caught my attention was Ocean Knight. His trainer, McLaughlin, has been around a long time and just as importantly he has trained some of the best stock in the world. Prior to OK's Sam F Davis candidacy, McL had never previously taken a first out sprint maiden winner and stretched them out in graded company in their subsequent starts. I noticed this before the running of that race and I considered it to be a tremendous vote of confidence in this colt. Then OK wins the Davis from the 11 slot going 5-wide around the first turn, wide throughout the backstretch run and into the far turn (while in pace contention throughout) and catches the front-running long shot in the final sixteenth in spite of drifting a little in the early-to-mid stretch run, he did it on his correct lead and won the race authoritatively, gliding right by the front runner without hesitation. It's hard not to be impressed by what this colt has done in 2 starts. First of all, Tampa Bay has a main track that is not for everybody, it's sandier and deeper than most. He shipped in from NY, giving away experience and ultimately lots of real estate with his extremely wide trip. Granted, he wasn't facing the elite 3yos, bu this win suggests that nothing is off the table at this point, because this colt could literally win the KD by merely taking some reasonable steps forward in his final one or two pre-derby starts. I don't know what McL's plans are going forward but a Florida Derby entry may be in the offing, but they could also take an easier path using the Tampa Bay Derby. The latter path would have him entering the Derby slightly under the radar. Finally, Ocean Knight is a Curlin foal and I believe it is only a matter of time before he foals a KD winner.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
I should have said "sired" a KD winner and that Ocean Knight is a son of Curlin. I am so used to looking at the female side of a given line, because that's where the variation comes in, obviously. That's my excuse, anyway.
Mark Colgan More than 1 year ago
Blinkers aren't going to help him beat Dortmond, who has a more powerful stride and turn of foot, in my opinion
Marcus Semona More than 1 year ago
Put blinkers on Firing Line and beats Dortmund
Brian S More than 1 year ago
At what? MAYBE 6 or 7 furlongs? Dortmund is clearly the better horse who will only improve with time and distance.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
American Pharaoh and Dortmund are a cut above anything we have seen so far, I can't believe that Baffert is actually going to have them face each other in the SA Derby, especially since they both like to fly early. That makes no sense. Dortmund has already proven that he can handle cross-country racing and he obviously loves the CD surface. He's also been the picture of health. From a betting standpoint I have to give the edge to Dortmund in the future wager, although right now they are roughly equal, approximately 9 or 10 to 1. Dortmund's comparative size&ability makes him a legitimate Triple Crown candidate. His size and cruising speed and apparent stamina should see him only increase his winning margins as the distances get longer. Training him up to the SA Derby from this point is definitely the smart thing to do. After his maiden win at CD, I called Dortmund the best 2yo I have ever seen, personally (1987). His gameness has been answered, twice now. That's another advantage from a betting perspective that he has over AP, who has not been tested yet. AP is an amazing colt in his own right, but Dortmund is showing us everything we need to see fram a tactical point of view. He can rate. He can rally inside or outside of other colts. From strictly a "futures" point of view, he's a standout in that field. How that translates to the First Saturday, we'll have to just wait and see, but 9-1 is a gift.
scott More than 1 year ago
Baffert wont run em both in SA derby. One will head for Ark derby.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
I would assume American Pharaoh because it gives them a chance to assess his plane traveling acumen and in a worst case scenario they could actually get him to Churchill on a trailer (8-hour trip). Some horses won't even board a plane. That's what happened to Leigh Court before the Filly & Mare Sprint and they ended up having to trailer her thousands of miles without enough time to recover. She was on my short-short list of big wagering opportunities in the BC until I read what happened (I'll bet the majority of bettors were totally unaware of what occurred with her). To say it impacted her chances is a gross understatement. I can understand why the connections threw caution to the wind, because she was being auctioned in the month following the BC so it was the trainer's last chance with her. She sold for 1.4 million, I believe, almost entirely as a broodmare prospect, I'm sure. My point is that it's better to ship AP to the mid-west sooner rather than later and even if he's a perfect gentlemen-flier it gives him the added advantage of a shorter final trip to Churchill (1 hour by plane). Win win.
Brian S More than 1 year ago
Yeah, I agree with a lot of what you said. No worries, Baffert isn't stupid enough to run AP and Dortmund in the SA. It looks like AP is going to ship while Dortmund stays for the SA. Dortmund has already shipped and gotten that experience, AP still needs to do it.
GARY More than 1 year ago
according to Baffert, there is no comparison between the 2. AP is far superior.
Brian Shaw More than 1 year ago
From what I heard, Baffert said "it would be hard to choose between the two." Dortmund is getting better, Dortmund is more likely to be the superior horse in May.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
He's been impressive, Gary, no question. Super impressive. The fact he has two runners this good is pretty amazing. He sure has benefited from the switch back to dirt in SoCal. As a bettor, I have to give the edge to Dortmund right now simply because he has more checks next to his name. AP has won both of his races so easily that we don't know what will happen when he gets looked in the eye by another seriously talented 3yo. Dortmund is proven over the CD strip. That is always a question mark (which can usually be answered by the clocker). Dortmund has won overland and underland and while one expects a quality horse to be able to do win darting up the rail inside of other horses, it's something they have to learn by doing. If the rider knows he can win inside or outside it gives him options in a pinch. If you can save ground in the KD you are helping yourself big-time. Street Sense and Bo Rail certainly emphasized that in their win over Hard Spun a few years back. To me, the biggest question mark for Dortmund is the distance, although he gives every indication that he will relish more real estate because of his gynormous stride and high-cruising speed, but the SA Derby should answer that as well as it can be answered.
Marvin Keene More than 1 year ago
From what I have seen, American Pharoah is far more brilliant than Dortmund. I think Dortmund could have trouble in the Derby as he is very large and perhaps not so agile as some other competitors. Such horses often have more difficulties navigating their way through the ridiculously large field than others do. My suggestion. Limit the Derby to 14 like the Preakness does and have a better race.
slewof damascus More than 1 year ago
that is a fair point, Marvin. Trip will be key. Notice that Dortmund is being trained to run up on/near the pace, probably for that precise reason. If he was a colt who had to weave through horses, I think he'd be in trouble for the precise reason you suggest, his size and lack of agility. The upside of his size and his stride length is that often appears like he is a man taking on boys. I saw this colt toying with firing line for all intents. To me, it might as well have been ten lengths when it comes to the actual separation between these two. Dortmund figures to be near the front of the KD probably chasing Pharaoh. If he has the stamina for the distance, I don't even think Pharaoh will be able to stay with him in the stretch. That, to me, is the only thing that can reasonably upend Dortmund's chances. His breeding is a little obscure, if not suspect for 1 and 1/4. All I can do is watch his SA Derby race and look for clues. So far, the way he gallops out, the way he finishes, the way he comes back to the winner's circle without breathing hard, or without appearing tired, I haven't seen anything to give me pause, except for the breeding.
Pagani Zonda More than 1 year ago
Dortmund will run at Santa Anita and American Pharoah in the rebel, then probably the Arkansas Derby.
Lawrence Redding More than 1 year ago
A gift in feb with 3 months to go??? The road to the Derby is strewn with the bones of future bets that were gifts in Feb. Good luck you' ll need it.