02/05/2015 3:11PM

Robert B. Lewis rematches Dortmund, Firing Line

Shigeki Kikkawa
Dortmund (left) works with Bob Baffert stablemate Lord Nelson about two weeks ago in preparation for Saturday's Robert B. Lewis Stakes.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Months after their first meeting, the rivalry is renewed Saturday at Santa Anita. And this race happens 90 minutes before California Chrome and Shared Belief run in the San Antonio.

Dortmund and Firing Line were separated by Dortmund’s big head when one-two at the end of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity in December, and they square off again in the Grade 3, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes for 3-year-olds.

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The Lewis, at 1 1/16 miles, goes as race 5 on the nine-race card. It drew a field of six, with Firing Line and Dortmund in the two outside posts. The Lewis offers 17 points, including 10 to the winner, under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 2 Kentucky Derby.

“These races are like the playoffs,” said Bob Baffert, the trainer of Dortmund. “We’re at the wild-card stage.”

The first meeting between Dortmund and Firing Line was a thriller, with those two and Mr. Z involved in a protracted duel to the wire. Dortmund is unbeaten in three starts and figures to be favored for the fourth time, but Firing Line has made an extremely favorable impression in his recent training and will be a lot shorter than the 3-1 he was when they last met.

“I think he’s done really well physically,” Simon Callaghan, the trainer of Firing Line, said as he watched the colt train from Clocker’s Corner on Thursday. “He should continue to progress as he matures.”

Dortmund carries 123 pounds, everyone else 118. Both Dortmund and Firing Line carried 121 in the Los Alamitos Futurity.

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Dortmund (Last 3 Beyers: 91-97-81)

◗ He won by a narrow margin when heavily favored at Los Alamitos, but he was coming back on just three weeks’ rest following a trip to Churchill Downs. He’s been able to stay home and train straight into this race.

◗ Baffert said he and jockey Martin Garcia have been trying to teach Dortmund to be less aggressive early in races.

“At Los Alamitos, when Martin let him out, he got to them in a couple strides,” Baffert said. “We’re trying to develop a style where he sits there. He needs something to run at.”

DRF FORMULATOR FACT: No. 6 Dortmund. Trainer Bob Baffert is 13-6-3-1 with a $2.69 ROI over the past three years in dirt route graded stakes with last-out winners following a layoff of between 45 and 60 days. Click for more details. Dan Illman

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Firing Line (Last 3 Beyers: 91-87-86)

◗ His chances in the Los Alamitos Futurity were compromised by racing between horses down the lane while taking repeated bumps from Mr. Z, who was lugging out.

◗ Firing Line is eager in his training and gallops every morning in draw reins, which give a rider more control.

“We’ve been doing that since just before the Los Alamitos race,” Callaghan said. “He can get a touch aggressive. He puts a lot into his breezes. He’s energetic and talented. We don’t want him to go too quick.”

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Rock Shandy (Last 3 Beyers: 90-75-71)

◗ He likely has the best chance to knock off the top two following a second-place finish behind his Peter Miller-trained stablemate Calculator in last month’s Sham Stakes, which marked his first start on dirt.

Tizcano (Last 3 Beyers: 65-74-64)

◗ Also trained by Miller, he is making his first start around two turns, and while he appears ambitiously spotted, he has the speed to at least impact the pace.