Santa Anita welcomes back Dortmund on Saturday

October 25, 2015 03:37am

The long awaited return of Dortmund is almost upon us. After a five-plus month layoff, one of the best three-year-olds in the nation will return in Saturday’s Big Bear Stakes at Santa Anita.

Six months ago, Dortmund was one of the brightest stars in racing. Still unbeaten after a dominating score in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, the big chestnut arrived in Louisville as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. Setting all the pace in America’s most recognizable race that afternoon, the Bob Baffert trained son of Big Brown eventually succumbed to the pressure, first of Firing Line, and then of the ultimate winner, American Pharoah. The exploits of the latter would soon become the biggest story in racing so far in the 21st century. The fortunes of his stablemate, Dortmund, were not so kind.

Seemingly not a fan of the weather and track surface that hit Pimlico in time for the Preakness, Dortmund followed up his good third in the Derby by finishing a well-beaten fourth in racing’s Middle Jewel. Owned by Kaleem Shah, Dortmund was rested after the disappointing Preakness finish, and then put on the shelf with a minor physical setback. Since returning, Dortmund has had a series of solid workouts at both Del Mar and Santa Anita. If all goes as expected on Saturday, he will be pointed for the Grade 1 Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs on November 27.

While Dortmund figures to rate a heavy favorite on Saturday, the Big Bear Stakes includes a motley crew of experienced older horses who would be willing to give him a run for his money if he does not come back near his best. Cat Burglar is multiple graded stakes placed, Motown Men is graded stakes placed, Point Piper won a stakes race the start before last, Soi Phet won the Los Alamitos Mile last year, and Mystery Train was a multiple Grade 1 winner in his native Argentina. But make no mistake, this $70,000, one mile listed stakes race is all about the winner of six races from eight tries, and earnings better than $1.5 million.

Martin Garcia will be reunited with Dortmund on Saturday. He rode the big horse to all four stakes victories, which include the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity late last year, and the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis in February, both of which came at the direct expense of the Kentucky Derby runner-up, Firing Line.  Dortmund and Garcia also accounted for the Grade 2 San Felipe in March, before their impressive win together in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby in April.

Despite losing both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, I still consider Dortmund to have one of the biggest upsides in all of American racing. His healthy return to the races will be great news for the sport. Considering both his physical presence and his athleticism, Saturday could be the beginning of something big in more ways than one. A stronger, more physically mature version of the Dortmund, that was a clear second choice for this year’s Run for the Roses, is an extremely exciting prospect for both the end of this year, and especially for the 2016 racing season.


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Meet Brian Zipse

Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Taken to the races at a very young age, he has been lucky enough to see all the greats in person from Secretariat, Forego, and Ruffian through Rachel Alexandra, Zenyatta, American Pharoah and Justify. Before coming to the Nation, Brian displayed his love for the sport through the development of his horse racing website, which quickly became one of the most popular blogs in the game. His new racing partnership venture, Derby Day Racing, invites more fans to experience the thrill of racehorse ownership.

The Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, Brian authored a daily column as Zipse at the Track, created the popular racing show, HorseCenter and added his editorial flare to the overall content of the website. Now a Senior Writer for HRN, Brian continues to contribute his thoughts on racing, as well as hosting HorseCenter. A big supporter of thoroughbred aftercare, he serves as the President of The Exceller Fund.

Brian's work has also been published on several leading industry sites. He has consulted for leading contest site Derby Wars, is both a Hall of Fame and NTRA poll voter, and is a Vox Populi committee member. 

A horse owner and graduate of DePaul University, Brian lives just outside of Louisville with his wife Candice and daughter Kendra.

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