Dortmund and the Curse of “Keen to Lead”

In The Lazy Bettor’s Guide to the Kentucky Derby I coin the phrase keen to lead (KTL) to describe runners incapable of relaxing early. The concept expands the typical need to lead (NTL) designation to include horses positioned 2nd or 3rd early in the race but who, in reality, fight for the early lead from that position.

Using my definition of KTL, 61 KTL types competed in the Derby since 1992 and only one emerged victorious. That winner was Bob Baffert’s War Emblem.

This year Baffert’s leading Kentucky Derby contender, Dortmund, appears to fall into the KTL category. In the past Baffert sent KTL contenders to post in the Derby without much worry, or success. Congaree. Bodemeister. Chitu.

I assume he always viewed War Emblem as proof that this running style could succeed as well as any other. Baffert’s opinion on the matter seems to have changed.

In today’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Dortmund is the likely betting favorite. The following paragraph is from Jay Privman’s writeup of the race at www.drf.com:

Baffert said he and jockey Martin Garcia have been trying to teach Dortmund to be less aggressive early in races. “At Los Alamitos, when Martin let him out, he got to them in a couple strides,” Baffert said. “We’re trying to develop a style where he sits there.

Did Baffert read The Lazy Bettor’s Guide? Or did he finally learn from trial and error what I discovered while researching 22 years of Kentucky Derby results?

Either way, Dortmund now has a chance to escape the fate of nearly all KTL types who have failed to convert enormous talent into a Kentucky Derby victory.

Roger LeBlanc