Kaleem Shah's Dortmund, who gave trainer Bob Baffert a formidable 1-2 punch in the 3-year-old division earlier this year as Triple Crown winner American Pharoah's stablemate, showed that he is back on his game, scoring an easy, open-lengths victory in Saturday's Grade 3 Native Diver Stakes at Del Mar.
The towering son of Big Brown chased front-runner Majestic City for the opening six furlongs, then seized command on the turn under Gary Stevens to win the 1 1/8-mile dirt race by 4 1/2 lengths in a time 1:48.06. Imperative finished a distant second, with Iron Fist third and Big Cazanova fourth in the field of six.
Majestic City's fractions were :23.75, :47.61, 1:11.36 and 1:35.71. Stevens merely showed Dortmund the whip down the stretch, knowing the victory was well in hand.
Dortmund went into the G1 Kentucky Derby unbeaten in six starts, yet was the second betting choice in the Run for the Roses behind American Pharoah. His wins included the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity, G3 Robert Lewis, G2 San Felipe and G1 Santa Anita Derby.
In the Derby, Dortmund, set the early fractions but wound up third behind his stablemate and runner-up Firing Line. He regressed in the G1 Preakness two weeks later, finishing fourth, beaten more than 15 lengths, and Baffert gave him a rest until October. Dortmund returned Oct. 24 to beat four horses in the ungraded Big Bear Stakes and moved forward further with his Native Diver win.
Baffert had considered sending Dortmund to Churchill Downs for the G1 Clark Handicap on Friday, but a minor foot issue convinced him to leave Dortmund in California and take on G3 competition in the Native Diver.
Dortmund was purchased on behalf of Shah by agent Donato Lanni for $140,000 at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale of 2-year-olds in training.
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