It goes without saying that Bob Baffert's best horse in 2015 was American Pharoah, who ended the longstanding Triple Crown drought going back to when Affirmed swept the series in 1978.
While Pharoah was the top Thoroughbred in the Hall of Fame trainer's stable, Baffert also had the top Thoroughbred based in California going into the 2015 Kentucky Derby. And he was the complete package.
Sired by 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Big Brown, Dortmund began his career with a six race winning streak, all with jockey Martin Garcia aboard. Graduating at Santa Anita in the autumn of 2014, he showed off his versatility during that time. He won by multiple lengths, notably in his second career start at Churchill Downs, which in turn showed he could ship well); he won by the slimmest of margins (see the 2014 Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity); he could fight back against an opponent, with his thrilling comeback in the 2015 Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes against Firing Line proof of his grit; and he could win after taking control of the pace early on, with his performance in the Santa Anita Derby putting the exclamation point on a perfect prep season for the Kentucky Derby.
Dortmund went into the Triple Crown opener as one of the primary contenders of the race, and he ran like it. He did not win in Louisville, but he took third after battling with Firing Line and actually leading for a time. The Preakness was a different story, however. Whether it was an off track or just not having enough in the tank, or a combination of both, Dortmund experienced his first off the board result at Pimlico. But he would return to his winning ways in due time.
Back in action the following autumn, the silks of owner Kaleem Shah were again prominent out front. Dortmund made easy work of his rivals in the Big Bear Stakes and Grade II Native Diver Stakes to collect five wins in seven starts for the year. The latter race featured the only time Dortmund did not take first place with Garcia in the saddle; aboard for that one was none other than Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens.
The Native Diver victory came at Del Mar, and he returned to that track the following summer to begin his four-year-old campaign.
Competing in the Grade II San Diego Handicap, Dortmund fought California Chrome in the stretch, giving it all he had before finishing second. Then came the Pacific Classic, which saw a nice third behind Chrome and Beholder. Dortmund's class was still there, for both Chrome and Beholder were extremely talented horses who knew how to consistently win at the graded stakes level.
After one more runner up finish to Chrome in the Grade I Awesome Again early in Santa Anita's autumn meeting, Dortmund was part of the Friday Breeders' Cup card in Arcadia. Sent to the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile, Dortmund had the lead briefly in the far turn, but narrowly missed out on third at the wire. Interestingly, he lost to future Horse of the Year Gun Runner (2017) and future Champion Older Male Accelerate (2018) in that race. Along with Chrome (who won the 2016 Horse of the Year) and Beholder (who was Champion Older Mare for that same season), Dortmund finished behind four horses who went on to capture Eclipse Awards in the span of a year. Even in defeat, Dortmund's class was evident.
The big horse (his height being an impressive seventeen hands) was back in 2017, but was now part of Art Sherman's stable. He made two starts for the veteran trainer, both of which came at Santa Anita. First up was the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile on the turf and then the Santana Mile on the main track. Neither start went the way the connections hoped, for Dortmund was off the board both times. He was later entered in the Awesome Again the following September, but was scratched out of that event. That made the Santana Mile the last start for Dortmund.
Though he never won again after his three-year-old season, Dortmund proved throughout his career he could be competitive. As talented as he was big, he won eight races, finished second twice, and third on two other occasions. He formed that record in sixteen starts, and won over four different tracks in the Midwest and West.
He was victorious at four distances ranging from six and one-half furlongs to a mile and eighth, was a five-time graded stakes winner, and commanded the respect of bettors. Of his sixteen trips to the starting gate, he went off favored no less than ten times. In that regard, he was much more than a post-time favorite. He was a true fan favorite.
After initially standing stud at Bonita Farm in Maryland, Dortmund is now a stallion in South Korea. If his progeny inherit the traits that made him a good racehorse, it could mean many wins for him both in the United States and in Asia.
Dortmund may not have been a divisional champion, but he was a special racehorse. With the desire to win flowing through him, a natural toughness, and the ability to handle different running styles, he earned every victory on the track.
A big horse. A big talent. A big winner. That is Dortmund.
Dortmund standing stud in Maryland and South Korea: Mitchell, Eric. "Dortmund Sold and Exported to South Korea." BloodHorse.com, January 7, 2021. https://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/245550/dortmund-sold-and-exported-to-south-korea