04/06/2015 10:12AM

Road to the Derby analysis: Santa Anita Derby

Benoit & Associates
Dortmund remained unbeaten by winning the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday.

Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby, 1 1/8 miles, Santa Anita, April 4, 2015
(100 Derby qualifying points for a win, 40 for second, 20 for third, 10 for fourth)

Winner: Dortmund

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Jockey: Martin Garcia

Owner: Kaleem Shah, Inc.

Beyer Speed Figure: 106

DORTMUND heads to the Kentucky Derby as the top horse who had his prep season in Southern California, a circuit that has appeared to be the strongest in terms of depth of this year’s Derby contenders. This was a good field on paper, but Dortmund dominated, making such well-regarded runners as BOLO and PROSPECT PARK look vastly inferior on the day.

Dortmund earned a career-best Beyer Speed Figure in this race, and now has recorded figures of 104 or better in three straight races. He has never lost, has speed to get position, has won four straight races around two turns, owns a win at Churchill Downs last fall, and has the physical size to handle what’s ahead.

It has been fascinating to watch his development over the past four months, which has been well-chronicled in DRF's Road to the Derby section. There was some skepticism over his performance last fall in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but I outlined reasons why it was better than looked. He was battle-tested in the Robert Lewis  by the accomplished Firing Line, and bravely prevailed. After he won the San Felipe, I opined about the greater sense of maturity Dortmund was showing in his races. This is a colt I’ve been high on for months. He’s done nothing to dissuade me from the belief that he is one of the elite contenders for this year’s Derby.

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

In the Santa Anita Derby, Dortmund bobbled a bit shortly after the start; he came back missing his right-front shoe, which trainer Bob Baffert theorized happened when he bobbled. Dortmund still made the lead from his inside post, with ONE LUCKY DANE and CROSS THE LINE lapped on him into the first turn. The bizarre rating tactics employed with BAD READ SANCHEZ essentially handed the lead to Dortmund, because Dortmund was never going to be put in a bad spot by One Lucky Dane, who is also trained by Baffert.

Still, Dortmund set legitimately fast fractions of 22.46 seconds for the opening quarter-mile, 46.36 seconds for a half-mile, and 1:10.57 for six furlongs while under a snug hold by jockey Martin Garcia. With less than three furlongs to go, Garcia began to niggle at Dortmund to get him to go on with it. He began to widen on his opposition. At the top of the lane, Garcia hit Dortmund left-handed a couple of times. He was a bit late with his lead change – perhaps owing to losing the shoe – and was hit once right-handed as he drew away to a 4 1/4- length victory.

One Lucky Dane earned a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby with his second-place finish, which was worth 40 points. This was only his second start off the layoff, and while he was no match for Dortmund, he ran well in his own right, finishing 2 1/4 lengths in front of everyone else.

One Lucky Dane was ridden away from the gate to secure a forward position, then stayed on Dortmund’s hip around the first turn and into the backstretch. Jockey Rafael Bejarano had to ride One Lucky Dane aggressively down the backstretch to hold his position when Cross the Line came up outside him, and midway on the turn it looked like he was going to drop out of it as the rest of the field bunched up behind Dortmund. But One Lucky Dane showed quite a bit of fight to stave off the others and get the place. He came up to Dortmund several times on the gallop out, and each time Dortmund showed his competitiveness by refusing to let One Lucky Dane go past him.

Bolo, who finished third, was purposely kept in the clear into the first turn but wound up four paths wide, though he was within hailing distance of Dortmund. Because the runners were bunched while chasing Dortmund, Bolo was forced to remain in the four path on the far turn, too. He went steadily through the lane and out-battled Prospect Park and Cross the Line for third, but was no threat to the top two. This wasn’t a bad race at all considering the compromised trip, but he’s likely going to be at his absolute best on turf; he’s already a stakes winner over that surface.

Prospect Park, who finished fourth, raced on his wrong lead the first eighth of a mile before jockey Kent Desormeaux got him to switch while at the same time dropping him into a spot between Bad Read Sanchez and Bolo, as those three were abreast chasing the other three. He didn’t appear comfortable in that spot entering the backstretch. Near the far turn, Prospect Park was inside Bolo and got shuffled back to last. He had to wait in traffic at the quarter pole, then dived inside, putting him in position to rally for second if he had it in him. He didn’t. Prospect Park did not finish with the same enthusiasm as in his runner-up effort to Dortmund in the San Felipe. He didn’t have the cleanest trip, but he didn’t fire, either. The following morning, his trainer, Clff Sise Jr., said Prospect Park had acted quiet in his stall in the hours leading up to the race, and though his temperature was normal, Sise said he suspects that “something was awry” and he was inclined to throw the race out.

Cross the Line, who finished fifth, was on his wrong lead leaving the gate but had the speed to end up outside both Dortmund and One Lucky Dane into the first turn. He remained in that spot down the backstretch and into the far turn, where at one point he advanced into second, behind Dortmund. He came under an aggressive ride midway on the far turn, was on his wrong lead until midstretch, then lost a three-way battle for third with Bolo and Prospect Park. Considering this was his first time on dirt and the first time facing horses of this caliber, this was a decent effort. If he avoids the big boys and takes advantage of his aptitude for synthetics, he’ll do just fine.

Bad Read Sanchez is named for a caddy who was blamed for misreading a putt, and it’s hard to imagine just how badly the colt’s connections misread this race. Bad Read Sanchez hadn’t run since August, and had only run in sprints, in which he was on or near the lead every time. This was an ambitious spot to bring him back, yet it was his speed that appeared be his best – perhaps only - weapon in this endeavor. Yet that was taken away as he was rated in last coming under the wire for the first time. He wound up inside Bolo and Prospect Park around the first turn, then made a decent run along the rail – following Dortmund – down the backstretch to enter contention. He came under a ride with three furlongs to go and tried to hang in there initially, but faded readily through the lane after having to avoid the heels of Prospect Park in midstretch and finished last.


Gene Martin More than 1 year ago
I hope Reddam/O'Neill decide to run Bad Read Sanchez in the Kentucky Derby if less than twenty horses enter. He needed his comeback race and should make up the 20 or so lengths he was beaten off the layoff in the Sants Anita Derby...LMAO
Tom Smith More than 1 year ago
tougher drug screening at the derby. always a problem for Baffert
softballscrub More than 1 year ago
yeah, that's the reason why he has 3 wins and multiple finishes in the money
Scott More than 1 year ago
Have I missed the big Baffert drug scandal? I just can't recall him being brought up on anything major.
StockPicker More than 1 year ago
Exceptionally talented however the issue with Dortmund is his massive size. He's ben running in small fields with plenty of room. Will be interesting to see how he fairs when he gets pushed around in a 20 horse field. With his massive size he may not be able to steady and start as efficient as the others. Which means the jock will have to push hard from the gate.
Anthony Bartolo More than 1 year ago
It didn't seem to bother his father much. He was pretty Big also, hence the name. Is a smaller horse getting jostled around in a 20 horse field going to fare better than a larger horse? I can't agree with that logic.
tommy More than 1 year ago
Big brown was an amazing horse and he looked amazing. Big brown has nice lean muscles while Dortmund has muscle and fat. I think Dortmund needs to go on a diet 2 months before kentucky derby. At least stay off the steroids for 2 months, but baffert doesn't care for the horse nor will he win the kentucky derby or any triple crown race this race !!!
Debbie Gardner More than 1 year ago
Like a million others, I really like Dortmund, a lot. Of course with all of them I have concerns. Will Dortmund be able to rate in the Ky Derby? It seems his last few races he was on the lead the whole race, of course it worked out well because he won, but to do this in a 1 1/4 mile Ky Derby? I hope he can rate and sit back off the leaders. And, the 2'nd thing is pedigree, some of the reports I've read seem questionable? I hope Baffert ships him to Churchill early, I like them to get use to surroundings and have a w/o at CD.
Scott More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't worry too much about him being able to rate. He just has a high cruising speed that put him on the lead in the last 2 races. Even then, he looked relaxed and appeared to be actually rating while on the lead. Post draw is the next big hurdle.
Tim ODonohue More than 1 year ago
I will take the 15-1 odds on Firing Line instead of the 7/2 on Dortmund in the Derby. He can relax and stalk the speed if he draws a nice outside post. He is not a one dimensional horse and Stevens as the pilot is a huge plus!
tommy More than 1 year ago
Prospect park and bolo got eliminated from the kentucky derby !!! With the results from the Arkansas derby, if far right or bold conquest get 2nd, 3rd or 4th, it will be enough to knock off bolo and prospect park!!
Robynrokn More than 1 year ago
PP and Bolo didn't show anything that even merits them going to KY except the owner's egos.
stevejPS More than 1 year ago
Isnt it true that no horse who won the Santa Anita Derby by more than 4 lengths has ever lost the Kentucky Derby ??!
Mike More than 1 year ago
Not in Point Given's case.
Vince More than 1 year ago
the ? is Dort and Firing line will cancel each other out in a derby speed duel???
Mike More than 1 year ago
No because Dortmund and Firing Line and rate off the pace.
Mike More than 1 year ago
can rate and stalk off the pace.
Meydan Rocks More than 1 year ago
Not if one of them can rate. Can they?
Tom Hickey More than 1 year ago
Dortnund has shown he can rate quite well (Los Alamitos Futurity). Should't be a problem. His high cruising speed has just taken him to the lead in his last two races. Hopefully we'll find out if American Pharaoh can rate on Saturday. If so, the KD will be very interesting.
Walter More than 1 year ago
Go watch replays of Seattle Slew & Secretariat and you will see Dortmund has similarities in running styles. He has shown he can run off the pace and he has shown he has enough speed to put himself on the lead. He just does what is necessary in the given race. He will win the KY derby in a stalking style, taking the lead at the top of the stretch and drawin clear. It will look a lot like Barbaro's Derby win. This horse is very special and he has all the tools to win the TC. I really see him putting on a Secretariat type performance in the Belmont.
Mike Cooper More than 1 year ago
Monday morning handicapping. So many handicappers last week talking about Bolo and Prospect Park improving off their previous race. Both melted. You have a horse that looks to be getting better with every race, not in huge increments, just improving every time out. If he wins by 10 the naysayers say the field was weak, the middle fractions were slow. Compare Dortmund to what is out there now. Carpe Diem wins easy in a slow time against nothing. Frosted wins in a slow time against plow horses. I see only a few horses out there that will compete with him. Firing Line, if he can get loose on the lead (like a Bodeimester, who almost pulled it off) , American Pharoah who has huge talent but may not have the bottom necessary for early May and Carpe Diem who has great motion but hasn't been tested by any quality. The Dubai horse ran against nothing and I think will fade under pace pressure like's he's never seen.
Ron Beal More than 1 year ago
Frosted's come home time was strong, on a track far from fast, and he did it in a manner worth noting. Agree he didn't beat much, tho. Could be one of those horses getting good at the right time. I think he's going to like CD. We'll see.