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Dec 26, 2014

Up the Backstretch: Dortmund earning Kentucky Derby top ranking

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor

 Philadelphia, PA ( - Over the last 30 years, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile has been awarded the position as the early favorite for the following year's Kentucky Derby. Just one Juvenile champ, Street Sense, has accomplished the double victory.

Now as 2014 comes to an end, the early favorite for the 141st Run for the Roses is not Texas Red, winner of the 31st Juvenile, but a 2-year-old colt who didn't start in the race on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita.

As the calendar changes to 2015, the leading soon-to-be 3-year-old is a Bob Baffert-trained thoroughbred with just three starts, including a single stakes. His name is Dortmund, a son of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown.

The chestnut colt exhibited excellent racing competence this past Saturday when winning the $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity at 1 1/16 miles.

"He learned a lot. That was the first time he went two turns," noted winning jockey Martin Garcia, "and usually he's right there (on the lead), but today they broke really fast. I was pretty comfortable. I knew what I had underneath. Two months ago, he was pretty quiet. He was a baby, when he first ran, it was a big difference."

Dortmund, owned by Kaleem Shah, came into the Futurity, formerly the CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, off a pair of wins by a total of 12 1/2 lengths. Unlike most 2-year-olds, he used stalking moves both times before running away from his opposition with Garcia in the saddle each start.

The Saturday start at Los Alamitos was a move up in class and, as Garcia noted above, a learning opportunity for the colt. He allowed stakes-veteran Mr. Z to set the pace and joined in on the lead around the final turn. It was a three- horse photo finish at the wire, including Firing Line, with Dortmund getting a head decision over Firing Line and Mr. Z.

"It was so close," Baffert said after the race. "I knew it was going to be those three (Dortmund, Firing Line and Mr. Z). They're all really good horses. He's such a big horse. I wasn't sure how he was going to handle the turns here. He broke well and (Garcia) got him into his own rhythm. He reminds me of Point Given. He's got a good mind, but he's still filling out and he's still learning."

Dortmund notched his first stakes win by establishing a track record of 1:40.86. Even more reason to like this horse come the First Saturday in May.

Dortmund has been favored in all three starts and was the top rated horse in the first Kentucky Derby Future Wager at the end of November. Among the 23 individual horses, Baffert's youngster was 9-1 with stablemate American Pharoah at 12-1. The mutuel field was the overall leader at 3-5.

The next Future Wager Pool will be Friday, Feb. 6 through Sunday, Feb. 8 and assuredly Dortmund will have much lower odds than 9-1.

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