FAVORED DORTMUND PREVAILS IN EPIC STRETCH BATTLE WITH RIVAL FIRING LINE TO WIN GRADE III, $150,000 ROBERT B. LEWIS STAKES BY A HEAD; BAFFERT & GARCIA TEAM IN IMPORTANT SANTA ANITA DERBY PREP

 

CHESTNUT SON OF BIG BROWN GETS 1 1/16 MILES 1:42.20, SAN FELIPE NEXT ON MARCH 7

 

ARCADIA, Calif. (Feb. 7, 2015)–Although he appeared beaten at the rail with a furlong to run, Bob Baffert’s Dortmund called upon his considerable class and courage to defeat rival Firing Line by a head in Saturday’s Grade III, $150,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita, an important steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 4.

Undefeated in his previous three starts and ridden by Martin Garcia, the imposing chestnut colt by 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown was collared by Firing Line midway around the far turn and was a half length behind leaving the eighth pole en route to covering 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.20.

“He’s a really good horse,” said Garcia. “He’s just a big baby, he’s still learning. I broke sharp and I put myself in a good position. When I asked him to go he started moving slowly. It looked like Firing Line (who was ridden by Gary Stevens) went by me, but in the end, when I asked him, he just started coming back. Firing Line gave us pressure, but my horse just took off again.”

Heavily favored at 3-5 in a field of five Derby hopefuls, Dortmund, a Kentucky-bred colt who is out of the Tale of the Cat mare Our Josephina, paid $3.20, $2.10 and $2.10. Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., Dortmund, who also defeated Firing Line by just a head in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 20, picked up $90,000 for the win and now has earnings of $449,400.

For his part, Firing Line, who rated kindly behind longshot Tizcano and Dortmund, appeared to have gained a clear advantage in deep stretch, but couldn’t hold the winner off while finishing some 21 ½ lengths in front of third place finisher Rock Shandy.

“I was disappointed,” said Stevens, who was also bidding for his 5,000th career win in North America. “I saw that Martin was asking his horse and he wasn’t getting any response and I was sitting there with a lot of horse. I thought I would never say that I moved too early at the eighth pole in a dirt race, but I moved too early.

“At the three eighths pole, I saw Dortmund wasn’t responding and I was smiling. I said ‘We’ll see what he does and we were opening up and he was idling. I thought we buried the one we had to beat and then I saw the shadow coming back at me.”

Trained by Simon Callaghan, Firing Line was off at 9-5 and paid $2.20 and $2.10. His overall record now stands at 4-1-3-0.

Callaghan, when asked if he thought Firing Line had the race in-hand, responded “I did. Gary came back and the first thing he said is ‘I’d ride him a little differently next time.’ It was Gary’s view that he moved a little early. These things are always easy after the event and he’s still learning. I think one thing for sure is he’s a very good horse and he got beat by a very good one.”

The third wagering choice at 6-1, Rock Shandy, who was ridden by Victor Espinoza, finished third, 7 ¾ lengths in front of Hero Ten All and paid $2.10 to show.

Dortmund collected 10 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, while the second, third and fourth place finishers collected four, two and one, respectively.

Fractions on the race were 23.18, 46.80, 1:10.70 and 1:35.54.