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Door Finally Opens for Dornoch in Belmont Stakes

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Dornoch, the Belmont Stakes winner, that’s who!

Not the Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan.

Not the Preakness Stakes winner Seize the Gray.

Not the favorite Sierra Leone.

Dornoch is a full brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Mage

Dornoch pulled off a stunner in the 156th Belmont Stakes (G1) at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, breaking strong and fending off all challengers for a half-length victory over Mindframe.

Mystik Dan was never in contention and finished eighth in the 10-horse field; Seize the Grey, who led early, finished seventh; and Sierra Leone, sent off as the 8-5 favorite, put on his usual late run but finished third, 1 ½ lengths behind the winner.

Dornoch, trained by Danny Gargan, reverted to his best running style of moving to the front under Luis Saez after breaking from post 6. It worked as he dueled with Seize the Grey before taking the lead with a quarter-mile to go.

Dornoch. NYRA Photo.

In the Remsen Stakes (G3) as a 2-year-old, he led gate-to-wire and in the Fountain of Youth (G2) he led, lost the lead briefly to Sierra Leone, then re-rallied and won in his 3-year-old debut.

“The plan was to break running,’’ Saez said after winning his second Belmont (he won with Essential Quality in 2021). “We controlled the pace from there. We were sitting in the perfect spot … I never lost faith in him. When I first rode him last year at Saratoga, I told Danny ‘You have the Derby winner,’ Unfortunately the Derby is a crazy race.”

Added co-owner Randy Hill: “He never ran his race in the last two. “I said, ‘Let him run his race.’ I felt pretty confident.”

Triumph at Saratoga: Dornoch’s Journey to Belmont Stakes Victory

Dornoch was sent off at 17-1 as the third longest shot in the field. His backers received a $37.40 payoff on a $2 win bet. The winning time was 2:01.64.

In the Kentucky Derby (G1) five weeks ago, Dornoch started from post 1, never had a chance after being bumped around several times and finished 10th. In the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) in April, a stalking tactic was tried, and the 3-year-old Good Magic colt ran fourth.

“There’s been a lot of hopes and aspirations. He had a bad trip in the Blue Grass and a bad post in the Derby,’’ co-owner and former MLB star Jayson Werth said. “He’s such a cool dude.”

Like 2013, the last time the Derby and Preakness Stakes (G1) winners met in the Belmont, neither won. Since Justify became the 13th Triple Crown winner in 2018, no 3-year-old has won two of the three races.

The $2 million Belmont was run at iconic Saratoga for the first time as Belmont Park undergoes a massive rebuild. The traditional distance of 1 ½ miles was shortened to 1 ¼ miles due to the configuration of the track at the Spa.

No matter. An overflow crowd of more than 50,000 showed up and the weather cooperated after early forecasts of rain. Sunny skies ruled the day, which included nine graded stakes races.

Honor Marie, who was last with a half-mile to go, also rallied and finished fourth, followed by Antiquarian, Protective, Seize the Grey, Mystik Dan, The Wine Steward, and Resilience.

Mindframe, one of three Todd Pletcher-trained horses in the race, was bumped at the start by Sierra Leone but challenged in the stretch under Irad Ortiz, Jr., before veering out in the final yards in just the third start of his career.” Pletcher also sent out Antiquarian and Protective.


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