Making the Grade: Dortmund


Dortmund remained unbeaten with a hard-fought victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity. (Photos by Eclipse Sportswire)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2015 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win important races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree. 

This week we take a closer look at Dortmund, winner of the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 20 at Los Alamitos. 

Dortmund opened his career with two victories so impressive that they vaulted the strapping colt to favoritism on the Wynn Las Vegas’ future book for the 2015 Kentucky Derby. In his graded stakes debut, Dortmund was challenged by a pair of opponents in the stretch and passed the test by setting a new track record, albeit in a very limited number of races at the 1 1/16-mile distance, at Los Alamitos. With 10 points under the Road to the Kentucky Derby scoring system thanks to the Los Alamitos Futurity win, let’s take a look at Dortmund’s chances to make an impact on the 2015 Triple Crown trail.


Chestnut Colt

Sire (Father): Big Brown

Dam (Mother): Our Josephina, by Tale of the Cat

Owner: Kaleem Shah

Breeder: Emilie Gerlinde Fojan (Ky.)

Trainer: Bob Baffert

Ability: Bloodstock agent Donato Lanni picked out Dortmund on behalf of owner Kaleem Shah at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training for $140,000. He made a spectacular first appearance on the racetrack when winning a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight race at Santa Anita Park by 4 ¾ lengths. Dortmund earned a very solid 91 Equibase Speed Figure for his debut win but improved upon that significantly in his second race with a 104 for a 7 ¾-length runaway victory at one mile on Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.

In addition to being Dortmund’s stakes debut, the Los Alamitos Futurity also was his first try around two turn and he had plenty of stamina in the stretch to get past a pair of determined opponents in Grade 1-placed Mr. Z and runner-up Firing Line. The 105 speed figure he earned essentially paired his best races and should set him up to improve again in his next start provided he gets plenty of rest.

One of the things I liked best about Dortmund was that he clearly wanted to accelerate on the backstretch when the pace slowed down, but he stayed in control under Martin Garcia and really went after the leaders when asked in the stretch. Dortmund wanted to win and he did.


Running style: The advantage of a high cruising speed has been discussed frequently in this blog, and Dortmund has an abundance of natural speed. He is a big colt, reportedly nearly 17 hands (a hand is four inches) tall, and when he gets into a comfortable rhythm he gobbles up ground. Big horses often have trouble when they lose momentum, so it made sense for Garcia to keep him in the clear approaching the far turn in the Los Alamitos Futurity so that his acceleration when launching his bid would not be impeded. He looks comfortable stalking or pressing the pace and that should benefit a big horse like Dortmund, who figures to get a jump on the closers as he tries to navigate a clear path to the finish line.

Previous Making the Grades

Competitive Edge

American Pharoah

Carpe Diem


Texas Red

Ocho Ocho Ocho

El Kabeir

Leave the Light On


Connections: Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has won the Kentucky Derby three times (Silver Charm [1997], Real Quiet [1998], War Emblem [2002]); the Preakness Stakes five times (Silver Charm [1997], Real Quiet [1998], Point Given [2001], War Emblem [2002], Lookin At Lucky [2010]); and the Belmont Stakes once (Point Given [2001]). He also trains elite juvenile American Pharoah, a leading contender for the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male and a 2015 Derby hopeful.

Owner Kaleem Shah is the founder and president of CalNet in Reston, Va., which handles intelligence analysis, telecommunications, financial and information technology for its clients, which includes the federal government and the military. Shah was born and raised in India, where his father, Majeed, was a major trainer who won the Indian Triple Crown.

Kaleem Shah enjoyed tremendous success in 2014 with Bayern, whose major victories included the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational Stakes, Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby and Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Other standouts owned by Shah include Concord Point, Awesome Baby, Fed Biz and Eden’s Moon.

Jockey Martin Garcia has been aboard for all three of Dortmund’s races. Garcia took out his jockey’s license in 2005 and has amassed more than 1,280 victories as well as 26 Grade 1 wins among 77 graded stakes victories through Dec. 21. His lone victory in a Triple Crown race came with Lookin At Lucky in the 2010 Preakness. Garcia also is the regular rider of Bayern and was aboard for all three of the aforementioned victories in races with seven-figure purses. Garcia won the Kentucky Oaks in 2011 with Plum Pretty and has won the Haskell three times. Garcia’s best finish from two Kentucky Derby starters was a sixth with Liaison in 2011.

Pedigree: Dortmund is from the third crop of 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner Big Brown, who appears to have passed along his size and athleticism to the Los Alamitos Futurity victor.

Big Brown started out his second career in the breeding shed at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., and has since moved to Duchess Views Farm. Apollo Sonic is Big Brown’s leading runner by earnings to date, and Dortmund is his first Grade or Group 1 winner from four graded or group stakes winners through Dec. 21.

Big Brown won seven of eight career starts, including five straight to begin his career before he was pulled up in the 2008 Belmont Stakes. He won stakes at distances ranging from 1 1/8 miles to 1 ¼ miles on both dirt and turf. Big Brown has not, thus far, found the level of success in the breeding shed that he achieved on the racetrack.

Dortmund’s dam (mother), Our Josephina, was a stakes winner sprinting at 6 furlongs (three-quarters of a mile) and finished second in the 7-furlong, Grade 3 Chicago Breeders’ Cup Handicap in 2004. Dortmund is her first foal to win a stakes from four winners out of five starters.

Dortmund’s second dam (maternal grandmother), Ropa Usada, by Danzig, was unraced but obviously showed potential as a yearling when she sold for $900,000 at the 1990 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. Ropa Usada’s half-brother (same dam, different sire) Mogambo won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes in 1985 and finished second the following year in the Wood Memorial Stakes.

Dortmund’s third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Lakeville Miss, was the 1977 champion 2-year-old filly after winning three Grade 1 races among four graded stakes victories at distances ranging from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. As a 3-year-old in 1978, she won the Grade 1 Coaching Club American Oaks at 1 ½ miles by 6 lengths.

When assessing Dortmund’s potential as an impact performer on the 2015 Triple Crown trail, it’s impossible to look at his racetrack performance and not see his sire, Big Brown. Both are physically imposing specimens who flashed brilliance from the first time they walked into a starting gate.

I can’t imagine Dortmund would have any problem stretching out another sixteenth of a mile for the key Kentucky Derby prep races, and he sure looks like a horse who should handle 1 ¼ miles, although I would like to see a bit more stamina in the bottom half of this pedigree.

Like Bayern, Dortmund is named after a professional soccer team that competes in the top league in Germany and has showed tremendous potential early in his career. He still has quite a bit of work to do to match the accomplishments of his more famous stablemate, but Dortmund has the opportunity to do something Bayern could not: win a jewel of the U.S. Triple Crown. Right now, Las Vegas bookmakers have him pegged as the favorite to do just that on the first Saturday in May.

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