Bob Baffert’s Dortmund is joined by stablemate Lord Nelson in the San Felipe Stakes. Both colts are multiple stakes winners already and regarded as a tough pair to top this Saturday.

Prior to the RB Lewis Stakes, Dortmund looked like the 3-year-old to beat on the West Coast. His inability to relax early appeared to be the only question about his prospects of winning the Kentucky Derby. After the race, most observers decided Dortmund had earned his top West Coast billing. But his RB Lewis performance, despite resulting in victory, raises an even greater concern: is he really a cut above his West Coast rivals?

In his Los Alamitos Futurity win, Dortmund prevailed by a head in a 3-horse blanket  finish. In the RB Lewis he again won by only a head. Not much room to spare in either case, but if he defeated a great horse or two his reputation would be well deserved. Alas, that’s not the case.

Every horse that ran 2nd or 3rd to Dortmund since his maiden win were no better than maiden winners themselves. None have gone on to win stakes races yet. Shouldn’t the best horse in the West be multiple lengths better than such underachievers?

Raw times offer no support for claims that Dortmund is a great 3-year-old. Above average, maybe. Possessing potential, maybe. Take 8-5 on him to win the San Felipe? No way!

As for Lord Nelson, he failed twice racing vs. stakes horses around two turns. Each time he failed to challenge the leaders in any meaningful way and lost ground in the stretch.

The San Felipe contains just one exceptional accomplishment: the early pace figures of Ocho Ocho Ocho. His tremendous early speed qualifies him to be the favorite in this race. Given that, his likely 4-1 odds offer quite a bargain to value-hunting handicappers.

Mike Smith not only turned down other mounts in this race, he also passed up opportunities to travel for mounts in major stakes races elsewhere. None of this points to Ocho Ocho Ocho as a likely Kentucky Derby winner, but it sure adds up to a decent betting opportunity in the San Felipe.

Roger LeBlanc
March 6, 2015