Scully’s Derby Top 10 – Dortmund justifies top status, Firing Line improves standing in Lewis

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February 11th, 2015

Dortmund brought a lot of hype into his three-year-old season and did not disappoint his many supporters in Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis (G2) at Santa Anita, posting a head decision over the talented Firing Line, who ran a huge race in defeat.

Conditioned by three-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert, Dortmund earned his first triple-digit BRIS Speed rating (101) and overcame a tight trip down along the rail to prevail.

The unbeaten chestnut captured his first two starts in brilliant fashion, including a 7 ¾-length allowance score at Churchill Downs, and overcame an extremely wide trip to just get up in his stakes debut, the December 20 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1).

He continued to gain valuable seasoning while employing a different tack in the Lewis and these experiences could prove extremely beneficial this spring.

I won’t go too overboard in praising him – Dortmund has some speed influences in his bloodlines and must still prove himself at longer distances. And he displayed maturity issues in the Lewis, running in spots as jockey Martin Garcia went to an all-out ride early on the far turn – he can’t afford to lose focus in a 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

But I was glad to see him justify his status as #1 in my Top 10 list.

Firing Line advances to #6 in my list and the lightly-raced colt is certainly a candidate for further improvement off his commendable runner-up finish.

There are no new additions, but Far From Over is knocking at the door following his excellent win in Saturday’s Withers (G3) at Aqueduct. Making only his second career start, the Todd Pletcher trainee overcame a bad stumble at the start to win going away by 1 ¾ lengths.

This weekend features Saturday’s El Camino Real Derby (G3), a 1 1/8-mile test on Golden Gate Fields’ Tapeta; and Monday’s Southwest Stakes (G3), a 1 1/16-mile event at Oaklawn Park.

The Kentucky Derby is 11 weeks from Saturday.

  1. Dortmund – Top two in Lewis finished in a different area code from their three rivals, more than 21 lengths ahead of Sham Stakes (G3) runner-up Rock Shandy in third, and Dortmund is clearly a leading contender at this stage given his natural talent and outstanding courage. Improving BRIS Speed ratings add to the unbeaten colt’s appeal and Dortmund only launched his racing career 97 days prior to Lewis (November 2 debut) – he remains eligible to move forward significantly over the coming months for a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer.
  2. Carpe Diem – Despite being based in South Florida, he appears likely to avoid Gulfstream Park, opening his 2015 campaign in the March 7 Tampa Bay Derby (G2), the same prep trainer Todd Pletcher used for his lone Kentucky Derby winner, Super Saver. Carpe Diem was one of the more talented juveniles and appears well-suited for a serious Kentucky Derby bid if he continues to improve at age three. Training forwardly for his return according to reports.
  3. Upstart – Impressive Holy Bull (G2) winner will not head to the sidelines for a prolonged two-month rest, returning instead for the February 21 Fountain of Youth (G2), and trainer Richard Violette is in a prime position with a colt that is bred to relish classic distances. Earned a terrific 105 BRIS Speed rating last time.
  4. American Pharoah – Two-year-old champ was brilliant crushing top-class company in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and FrontRunner (G1), and he’s posted two works since returning from an injury that sidelined him prior to the Breeders’ Cup. Powerful front-runner is very exciting.
  5. Texas Red – Will miss the February 21 Risen Star due to a foot abscess and a physical setback is never a good thing on the Kentucky Derby trail. At least it happened in early February and the late runner could still get enough out of his final prep to set him up for his best at Churchill Downs.
  6. Firing Line – He’s pushed Dortmund to the limit finishing a narrow second in both the Los Alamitos Futurity and Lewis, and trainer Simon Callaghan will be glad to get away from that foe next time. It will be no surprise to see Firing Line continue to make a serious impact in his final prep and he’s a very live Kentucky Derby prospect for three-time winning rider Gary Stevens.
  7. Frosted – Will make his third stakes appearance in Fountain of Youth and expect to see the gray colt move forward from a fine second in the Holy Bull. Like his breeding for longer distances and tactical speed – still a big potential upside for Kiaran McLaughlin.
  8. Imperia – Long-winded colt avoided dirt sprints early in career, making his first four attempts in turf routes, and Grade 3 winner impressed when recording a fast-finishing head second in dirt debut, the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs. Certainly a very intriguing prospect for McLaughlin and Risen Star will tell us more about where he’s at following the winter break.
  9. Ocean Knight – A debut winner sprinting in mid-December, he left a favorable impression stretching out to two turns in Sam F. Davis, winning comfortably by a deceiving neck margin, and the Curlin colt is just scratching the surface for McLaughlin. Looking forward to his next appearance in the March 7 Gotham (G3).
  10. The Great War – A commendable fourth when making his U.S., dirt and two-turn bow in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the Ward trainee appears likely to take Polytrack route at Turfway Park to Kentucky Derby. An easy winner on January 31, War Front colt brings dangerous speed to the equation.

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