Dortmund Leads Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile Pre-Entries
By Reinier Macatangay
Earlier this week pre-entries for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (GI) came out and fans and bettors alike will likely favor Kaleem Shah’s physically stunning 4-year-old colt Dortmund.
Dortmund, trained by Bob Baffert, is winless in three 2016 starts but in early 2015, he carried a lot of momentum going into the Kentucky Derby (GI) after winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII), San Felipe Stakes (GII) and Santa Anita Derby (GI). He finished third at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday, and was subsequently sidelined for seven months.
One year later, Dortmund finished runner-up to California Chrome twice in the San Diego Handicap (GII) at Del Mar and Awesome Again Stakes (GI) Santa Anita and also placed third in the Pacific Classic (GI) behind California Chrome and multiple champion Beholder. Dortmund owns two wins at the one-mile distance, with one of them coming last fall over Santa Anita’s main track.
The Dirt Mile includes other logical contenders should Dortmund fail, such as the locally based Accelerate, who owns a perfect 2-for-2 record in two-turn, one-mile events. While Accelerate takes a steep rise in class off the Los Alamitos Derby (GII) victory; fans of top distaffer Stellar Wind will recognize the solid team Hronis Racing and trainer John Sadler.
James McIngvale’s champion sprinter Runhappy will make his second attempt at two turns. Bettors will remember his disappointing effort in the 2015 Lecomte Stakes (GIII) at Fair Grounds where he finished ninth of 11 and emerged from the race with an injury, causing him to spend months on the shelf. Since then, the son of Super Saver had an excellent second half of 2015, including a record-setting performance to win last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) but enters the Dirt Mile off a fourth-place finish in the Ack Ack Handicap (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Down the list, Tamarkuz tries for his first North American win for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin and Shadwell Stable. Since mid-2015, the son of Speightstown has lost six straight races.
In contrast, Keene Thoroughbred’s Texas Chrome aims for his fourth straight victory in the Dirt Mile, and a wave of support may fall behind him as tries to prove capable of winning a race at this level. Besides capturing the Super Derby (GIII) and Oklahoma Derby (GIII), he also earned placings in the Matt Winn Stakes (GIII) and Iowa Derby (GIII).
G M B Racing’s Tom’s Ready also heads into the Dirt Mile off a nice win over Runhappy in the Ack Ack, and picked up another graded stakes victory earlier in the year in the Woody Stephens Stakes (GII) at Belmont Park after a pace collapse. If another contested pace occurs, Tom’s Ready can benefit greatly from the scenario.
Joseph Sutton’s Bradester is on the pre-entries list, but was declared out of the race.
As for horses with first preference in another Breeders’ Cup race, Winchell Thoroughbred’s Gun Runner would attract the most attention in this spot as the third-place finisher in the 2016 Kentucky Derby. His collection of wins includes the Risen Star Stakes (GII), Louisiana Derby (GII) and Matt Winn. Gun Runner has first preference in the Classic.
Midnight Storm, mainly a turf horse, holds first preference in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (GIT) on turf. If he ends up in the Dirt Mile, expect him to contest the early lead for owners A Venneri Racing and Little Red Feather Racing.
Pick Six Racing’s Vyjack, a half brother to the wildly popular Tepin, also holds first preference in the grassy Mile. The now 6-year-old gelding recently closed late to take the local City of Hope Mile (GII) on turf.
Finally, War Story’s first preference is the Classic, and this runner will compete as a longshot in either race for owners Loooch Racing Stable, George Weaver and Imaginary Stable.
Dortmund will be seen as the “class” horse, though, after competing against the likes of California Chrome and Beholder this year. Baffert likely chose to avoid California Chrome by entering this race instead, and it could turn out to be a smart choice.
Post positions for all Breeders’ Cup races will be drawn on Monday. Post time for the Dirt Mile is set at 3:05 PST.