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Apr 03, 2015

Can Dortmund remain unbeaten heading to Churchill Downs?

By: By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst


Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Outside of Todd Pletcher's Materiality, the lone remaining undefeated 3-year-old expected to enter the Kentucky Derby makes his final prep in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.

Dortmund has been on top or in second on almost every analyst's Kentucky Derby list all winter and spring. His rise to stardom sprang with a powerful maiden victory last November.

The son of Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown followed that effort up with a 7 3/4-length win over the Churchill Downs surface 27 days later. That performance made national headlines in the racing world and stamped Dortmund as a major player on the 2015 Kentucky Derby trail.

Since then, the Bob Baffert-trainee has strung together three wins, two by a head over Firing Line, who came back to win the Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths, and the most recent victory by 1 1/4 lengths over Prospect Park in the San Felipe Stakes.

It is interesting that Baffert decided to switch gears and send another colt into the Santa Anita Derby. One Lucky Dane makes his second start this year after his trainer said the colt was going to the Blue Grass. If Baffert wants One Lucky Dane to make it to the Kentucky Derby, he might as well keep him on his home track (Santa Anita), but how will the colt's running style affect Dortmund?

Remember, Dortmund does not have to win or finish second to qualify for the Run for the Roses. Still, the large colt is not likely to run third or even fourth. On the flip side, One Lucky Dane needs a top-two finish because he does not have any Derby points.

Given that, along with the fact One Lucky Dane is 2-for-2 going gate to wire and 0-for-3 when he fails to get to the top early, look for the son of Lookin At Lucky to go to the lead, which would allow Dortmund to sit just off the pace, something he has not done in his two starts this year.

One would assume Baffert will give these types of instructions to jockeys Rafael Bejarano (One Lucky Dane) and Martin Garcia (Dortmund) with the intention of slowing the early pace to benefit his two charges.

Based on his pedigree and running style, it is doubtful One Lucky Dane will hold his lead the entire nine furlongs. Look for Dortmund and Bolo to fight for the top spot heading into the stretch with Prospect Park right behind them.

Can Dortmund prove the best of the three inside the final furlong as he did in the San Felipe? Something tells me Prospect Park will take it to Dortmund this time around and reverse the order of finish.

Don't forget, Dortmund had it all his own way last time out. He led the field through a 46.98 half-mile and only had to fend off Bolo to win by 1 1/4 lengths over a fast, but late closing Prospect Park.

Prospect Park still needs to learn how to face what is in front of him rather than the crowd through the stretch. If that habit is corrected, there is no telling how good this colt can be.

Remember, he was bottled up in between and behind five horses into the stretch of the San Felipe. With a field of six going in the Santa Anita Derby, look for him to be in the clear when he takes dead aim on Dortmund.

Santa Anita Derby - 1) Prospect Park 2) Dortmund 3) Bolo LS) Cross the Line

CARPE DIEM LEADS BLUE GRASS FIELD

Todd Pletcher's top 3-year-old always has been Carpe Diem despite the recent success of Materiality. The son of Giant's Causeway leads a field of eight in the Blue Grass.

Carpe Diem won his first two starts in 2014 before finishing second to Texas Red in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. His first 3-year-old appearance was a smashing success as he powered past Divining Rod into the homestretch of the Tampa Bay Derby. He won by a convincing five lengths while Ami's Flatter got past a tiring Divining Rod for second.

It is interesting to note Materiality crushed Ami's Flatter by 14 lengths in the recently run Florida Derby, Still, it was Carpe Diem's first start in four months and he is sure to improve on Saturday. The Blue Grass should not provide any major hiccups for Carpe Diem outside of a possible improved performance from Ocho Ocho Ocho.

After winning his first three career starts, Ocho Ocho Ocho was not fully cranked for his 2015 debut against Dortmund and Prospect Park in the San Felipe Stakes. He also had a brutal trip that day getting cut off by Dortmund at the start and then steadying approaching the first turn. Ocho Ocho Ocho wound up eighth, beaten over 15 lengths.

Expect a much-improved effort with a better trip against a less-than-stellar field in the Blue Grass.

Unrivaled makes his stakes debut after winning his last two races by a combined 20 lengths at Parx. He is bred to handle the nine furlongs as his dam's half-brother won the Iselin Stakes at Monmouth back in 2008. Furthermore, his sire, Super Saver, won the 2010 Kentucky Derby. The late closer will be tested for class on Saturday and the feeling here is that he has a chance to finish third.

Blue Grass - 1) Carpe Diem 2) Ocho Ocho Ocho 3) Unrivaled LS) Danzig Moon

FAR FROM OVER'S INJURY LEAVES WOOD MEMORIAL IN SHAMBLES

How much of a factor would Far From Over have been in the Kentucky Derby? It is impossible to tell after the ridgling suffered a condylar fracture during his March 28 workout and will miss the Run for the Roses.

That leaves El Kabeir, Frosted and Daredevil as the main players in the Wood Memorial with a severe lack of quality behind them. I should point out each colt is distance-challenged, so there is no guarantee all of them will hit the board. Still, they are leaps and bounds ahead of the rest of the field.

Time to analyze the three expected top choices.

El Kabeir was primarily known as a speed merchant prior to his surprising come-from-behind victory in the Gotham Stakes. Outside of his debut in a five- furlong event last August, the son of Scat Daddy was never a length off the lead after the first quarter mile. However, in the Gotham, El Kabeir was next- to-last, 12 lengths behind Toasting Master, who ran a 23-flat first quarter.

After three-quarters in 1:12, El Kabeir was fifth, only four lengths off the lead, and by the time the field was one furlong from the wire, he was in front by two lengths en route to the 2 3/4-length win. Was El Kabeir that impressive or were the horses behind him that bad? The latter is the probable answer as Toasting Master held on for fourth. just 3 1/2 lengths in back of the winner.

Frosted heads up north after a strange performance in the Fountain of Youth. The son of Tapit faded to fourth after opening up daylight on the field around the final turn. Frosted was hand ridden into the stretch after a 23 4/5 third quarter, but he gave way in a matter of seconds to both Upstart and Itsaknockout.

The Gulfstream Park stretch has been extremely tiring this spring, but Frosted needed over 35 seconds for his final 2 1/2 furlongs. It seems the gray colt is going backward in his development, as is all of Kiaran McLaughlin's top 3-year- olds.

Daredevil is the one to catch despite not having won a race since October. The Todd Pletcher-trainee has never even won on a fast track.

Since defeating Upstart and El Kabeir in the Champagne Stakes, the son of More Than Ready flopped with an outside post in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and then finished second to Ready for Rye in the Swale.

There are not many More Than Ready's who are successful running nine or 10 furlongs as most are best at one mile. Even Daredevil's half-brother, Albertus Maximus, won the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile.

Still, something about Daredevil reminds me of Danza, one of Pletcher's 3- year-olds from 2014. That colt, who was not bred to run his best over long distances as well, came into the Arkansas Derby off one prep in March - a seven-furlong sprint in which he also lost.

The connections of two other horses had a change of heart after Far From Over was injured. Tiz Shea D and Lieutenant Colonel both entered the Wood Memorial to complete the field of seven.

Bill Mott moved Tiz Shea D up from a maiden win at 5 1/2 furlongs right into the Gotham last time out and the son of Tiznow ran a game second to El Kabeir. He should improve off that effort, but he faces tougher horses on Saturday.

Lieutenant Colonel, trained by Chad Brown, was a non-factor in the Gotham. Still, the colt was off a step slow at the break, went wide around the first turn, made a premature move up the backstretch and then was carried even wider into the stretch.

It is true Lieutenant Colonel finished last, but he should get a much easier trip this time around.

Wood Memorial - 1) Daredevil 2) Frosted 3) El Kabeir LS) Lieutenant Colonel

THE 2015 JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) Prospect Park - Has perfect running style to nail speed in Kentucky

2) Mubtaahij - Don't be surprised if he wins Kentucky Derby

3) American Pharoah - Look for a Bodemeister-type Ark Derby romp

4) Dortmund - Not much to dislike heading into final Derby prep

5) Firing Line - Six-week break will not affect Sunland winner

6) Carpe Diem - Pletcher's No. 1 prospect heads Blue Grass field

7) Materiality - Apollo curse haunts unbeaten son of Afleet Alex

8) Bolo - Needs to hit board in SA Derby to secure spot in field

9) Upstart - Will he have enough left after two tough Florida races?

10) International Star - All he does is win; Ky Derby a step up

11) Daredevil - Should get the best of weak field in the Wood

12) Far Right - Stone closer reminds me a bit of Ride On Curlin



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