In his first start for trainer Art Sherman, after eight wins and two grade 1 victories for Bob Baffert, the hulking son of Big Brown will try grass for the first time in his 14-race career in the $400,000 Frank E. Kilroe Mile (G1T) March 11 at Santa Anita Park.
In his final timed work for the Kilroe Sunday, Dortmund covered seven furlongs in 1:25 4/5 working past the wire under exercise rider Dihigi Gladney. The massive chestnut ran splits of :24 2/5 and :48 1/5 through a half-mile, hit the wire in 1:12 3/5 and continued his work for another furlong.
"He looked really good," said assistant trainer Alan Sherman. "The horse went really well. We train him similarly to (California) Chrome. These types of horses just want to do more, so you gallop them a little farther than others, too. He's such a big horse, we're just trying to get him ready."
Gladney had to fill in Sunday for jockey Martin Garcia, who was scheduled to be aboard for the workout, but informed the Shermans in the morning that he wouldn't make it to Los Alamitos. Instead Garcia worked horses for Baffert at Santa Anita, including Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) contender Mastery and world-beater Arrogate. Alan Sherman declined to comment on whether Garcia will ride Dortmund in the Kilroe.
As for the reasons to try turf, the Shermans' reasoning is twofold.
The 5-year-old's pedigree has cried out for a grass try, even though his dirt form has been more than impressive. Big Brown won his debut on turf at Saratoga Race Course, before going onto dirt glory on the Triple Crown trail, and as a sire, 11 of his 17 stakes winners have won stakes on the grass.
Dortmund's dam, Our Josephina, came in fifth in her only turf try at Churchill Downs, but has produced a two-time turf winner from five foals to race. Joseph the Catfish (Mineshaft ), foaled two years before Dortmund, broke his maiden on the Mountaineer Casino, Racetrack & Resort grass in 2013 and then won an allowance on the same surface in his next start.
"He's out of a Tale of the Cat mare and Big Brown won easy on turf," Alan Sherman said. "Obviously they made the right choice to put him on dirt, but there's definitely something there."
The Shermans also hope the grass could be easier on Dortmund's notoriously bad feet. Now with special shoes to cushion his hind feet and hopefully prevent quarter cracks, his hoofs are doing much better.
"He gets quarter cracks—more with his hind feet," Alan Sherman said. "He's good now—knock on wood. The cushion shoes give him some relief."
The Shermans were considering the seven-furlong Triple Bend (G1) on the Santa Anita main track, also March 11, for Dortmund's return, but again took the chestnut's condition into consideration, and how racing against speedy sprinters like Masochistic might take a toll coming off a layoff. Dortmund last raced in the Nov. 4 Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), where he engaged Runhappy on the front end and tired to finish fourth.
"There are some good, fast horses in that race," Alan Sherman said of the Triple Bend. "I mean, they could be going :21 and change for that first quarter mile. On the grass going two turns should be easier on him."