02/08/2015 1:53PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Robert Lewis Stakes

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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.