Derby Doings Volume 12 Number 3


Volume 12 - Number 3
Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dortmund And American Pharoah - So Far-So Good

Dortmund or American Pharoah. American Pharoah or Dortmund. It must be nice to be trainer Bob Baffert who has both the undefeated Dortmund (5-for 5 in his career) and American Pharoah, who made his 3-year old debut his third straight Graded Stakes win (by an average of 4 3/4 lengths in untested wire-to-wire fashion) in his barn.

If each isn't an inverted 1-2 on just about every early Derby Top 10 List they are certainly in the Top 5. And deservedly so.

In fact, these two colts have been so dominant that there has only been a scarcity of talk about Todd Pletcher's usual multi-entrant contingent which right now appears to be seven in number.

If Dortmund wasn't on the Top of this handicapper's list heading into the March 7th Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, he is now.

On February 7 Dortmund made his 3-year old debut in the Grade III Robert Lewis Stakes, his first race since December 20th and he showed as much heart as talent when he was pressured the entire way in the mile and a sixteenth test by Firing Line and after being passed by that one in mid-stretch came back to take a head victory in the final jump.

This was a carbon copy repeat of Dortmund's head win over Firing Line in the Lo Alamitos Futurity (formerly the Hollywood Futurity in the aforementioned December 20th race.

What was truly impressive, however, was how Dortmund responded on March 7th, when wheeled back in 4 weeks off that all-in effort in the Robert Lewis and in a San Felipe test in which he could have bounced, he was even further along as he went right to the front from the outside in the mile and a sixteenth test, was challenged from the outside by longshot Sir Samson before pulling away from that one leaving the 5/16ths pole, was challenged again in mid stretch by Bolo (who wound up third) and despite drifting out a bit edged clear again approaching the sixteenth pole.

Those who are cautious in anointing any 3-year old at this point will point to his seeming propensity to wait on and run with rivals in his races, never completely clearing as, say, his stable mate American Pharoah has done, But it is also worth noting that this guy might not yet (despite being undefeated in 5 starts) learned what his full potential is because he is as physically huge a colt as you have. In the San Felipe he towered over his opponents. In the paddock before the race he was clearly the alpha male, so how good might he be as he mentally grows into his prodigious physical attributes?

This past Saturday the Serious Derby Contender List got even more crowded as Bob Baffert's American Pharoah returned to the races with his long awaited 3-year old debut in the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

There is a rumor going around that the owners of Oaklawn Park are toying with the idea of renaming the race the Baffert Stakes virtue of his now having won the race 4 of the last 5 years with, in addition to American Pharoah, taking top honors with Hoppertunity in 2014, Secret Circle in 2012 and The Factor in 2011. As impressive as that streak is, it is also worth noting that none of those were major players in the Kentucky Derby. However, that being said, Baffert will likely keep American Pharoah here for his final prep in the Arkansas Derby and over that same 4 year period prior to this year the conditioner did win the 2012 Arkansas Derby with Bodemeister, who in finishing second in the Kentucky Derby after cutting out one of the fastest half miles and six furlongs in the race's history might have actually run the best Derby in the last 5 years. However, Baffert also failed with favored War Academy (last) and Den's Legacy (sixth) in the 2013 Arkansas Derby and was third with the favored Bayern a year ago.

None of those results will determine how American Pharoah performs in his projected final prep in the Arkansas Derby and what that means for his Derby prospects but it does at least throw perspective into the mix.

Nonetheless, at this point American Pharoah's easiest of wins while in hand threw a wire-to-wire 6-1/4 length victory over a glib Oaklawn surface was impressive by the eye test but must also be held in abeyance until the Arkansas Derby given the fact that he was allowed an unchallenged 6 furlongs in 1:15 1/5 before completing the mile and a sixteenth in 1:45 3/5. The 30 2/5 for the final 5/16ths is legitimate, but it must be pointed out that earlier on the card Race day won the Razorback Stakes with 1:12 2/5 and 1:44 4/5 (faster early-slower late.)

Right now I would put Dortmund ahead of American Pharoah, but obviously Bob Baffert is living large in mid-March as the Derby pecking order begins to take shape.

Speaking of the Derby pecking order taking shape the truly important Derby Preps will begin to stack up over the course of the next few weeks, beginning this Saturday with the Grade III Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park.
Sat. 3/21 - Grade III Spiral Stakes - Turfway Park
Sun. 3/22 - Grade III Sunland Derby - Sunland Park
Sat. 3/28 - Grade I Florida Derby - Gulfstream Park
Sat. 3/28 - Grade II Louisiana Derby - Fair Grounds
Sat 3/28 - Group I UAE Derby - Meydan Race Course
Sat. 4/4 - Grade I Wood Memorial - Aqueduct
Sat 4/4 - Grade I Blue Grass Stakes - Keeneland
Sat. 4/4 - Grade I Santa Anita Derby - Santa Anita
Sat 4/11 - Grade I Arkansas Derby - Oaklawn
Sat. 4/11 - Grade III Lexington Stakes - Keeneland
Sat. 5/2 - Grade I Kentucky Derby - Churchill Downs

"We do not have adequate time to prepare Texas Red for a prep race that he would need to get in condition for, and attain adequate points for, a Derby start. We look forward to bringing him back to the races when he is ready to compete again at the highest levels."

Those were the words of Erich Brehm, one of the co-owners of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Texas Red, who has just begun training again after a foot abscess sidelined him for about a month. His half mile work in :51 2/5 at Santa Anita this past Saturday was more or less an easy airing and the connections are to be applauded for not rushing him back to qualifying points prep and then a quick turn-around in the Kentucky Derby.

Whatever one wishes to read out of yet another early successful two-year old winning the BC Juvenile and either not making it to the race or failing to win the Run-For-The-Roses, the streak of no BC Juvenile winner succeeding in the Kentucky Derby continues.


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