Away from Rail, Dornoch Aims for Smooth Belmont Trip

Dornoch | Sarah Andrew


SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – For trainer Danny Gargan, having Dornoch (Good Magic) land in Post 6 for the GI Belmont S. was a Monday win that just might lead to a major victory on Saturday.

Five weeks after finishing a never-threatening 10th from the dreaded post position on the rail in the GI Kentucky Derby–a spot in the gate that has not produced a winner since 1986–Dornoch will leave from what Gargan figures will be a more promising location in the field of 10 at Saratoga Race Course.

“I like the six,” Gargan said. “I wanted to get to seven or eight, even the nine, but as long as he's not stuck down on the inside, I think we're OK.”

While Dornoch had a solid 2-year-old season, capped by a score in the GII Remsen over Belmont morning-line favorite Sierra Leone (Gun Runner), 2024 has been far less rewarding for the speedy colt. He earned important Derby qualifying points with a win in the GII Fountain of Youth, ran fourth GI Blue Grass, 6 1/2 lengths behind Sierra Leone, and had a brutal trip in the Derby.

Gargan skipped the GI Preakness, sent the full-brother of 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage (Good Magic) to Saratoga and began preparing for the Belmont S. The Belmont is being run at historic Saratoga this year and in 2025 during a massive makeover of Belmont Park. Since Saratoga's main track is a 1 1/8-miles oval, the Belmont will be run at 1 1/4 miles, rather than the usual 1 1/2 miles. With a more-favorable post position in hand, Gargan is happy and optimistic.

“I thought going into the Derby, he was doing tremendous,” Gargan said. “We're just trying to keep him at that level. I can't really complain about how he's doing. His works have been really good here. He's been working really nice. It's all about getting lucky and getting a clean trip. And if he can get out of there, get into his pace and his rhythm, he'll run big.”

There was a considerable buzz at Saratoga last summer leading up to Dornoch's debut on July 29. Seize the Grey (Arrogate), who added the Preakness to his resume May 18, led from gate to wire to beat Dornoch by 1 3/4 lengths in a field that included five who have won races thus far, three with stakes victories. Dornoch, co-owned by West Paces Racing LLC, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, LLC, Two Eight Racing, LLC and Pine Racing Stables, broke his maiden in his third start. In his next outing, he showed he was stakes worthy with his win by a nose in the Remsen Dec. 2.

Gargan put him on the road to the Triple Crown series in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park Mar. 2. Dornoch secured the win but did not have the type of race Gargan had hoped for.

“We wanted to rate him in the Fountain of Youth and the race just fell apart as the day went on,” Gargan said. “We just didn't have time to do it. There just wasn't anybody fast enough to get in front of him, so we just went ahead and went on and tried to just get our Derby points.”

A month later at Keeneland, Gargan intended for Dornoch to take an important step in his education as a two-turn graded stakes runner from Post 4 in the field of 10.

“We tried to rate him in the Blue Grass, and he kind of got stuck in there and we're like, 'Oh, we're not going to do that again.' Then it kind of happened even worse in the Derby.”

Worse might be an understatement. Dornoch's position at the calls in the Derby chart: 13th, 12th 13th, 12th by 12 lengths, 10th by 18.

Gargan said that Dornoch was in trouble as soon as the gates opened. The colt broke a beat slow and Mystik Dan (Goldencents), ridden by Brian Hernandez, who Gargan once worked for as an agent, took control of the rail from Post 3.

“Brian Hernandez rode a great race. I've got to give him credit,” Gargan said. “He out-broke us and came over and it was over. We got checked in there. Once we got checked the first time he got shuffled back and just kind of didn't get to run the whole race. He got beat up the whole way. Now, hopefully, we get a clean trip and we can show what he can do.”

Dornoch has a major-league body and Gargan said the post toward the outside should play to his strengths.

He's a massive, tall, really good-looking horse,” Gargan said. “Physically, he always looks good. It's a little bit mental with him. Hopefully, he gets a trip and doesn't get in behind horses and gets to run. The other day, he just never got to run. You can't keep talking about it. You just throw that race out and go to the next one.”

Gargan said was pleased to draw outside of Seize the Grey, who is on the rail, and Mystik Dan, in Post 3. He figures that Seize the Grey and jockey Jaime Torres will have to go to the front, like they did in the Preakness, but isn't sure about what strategy Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher will chose for two-for-two Mindframe (Constitution), who drew the outside post. Gargan said his colt does not have to be on the lead, but expects him to be near the pace set by Seize the Grey.

“I'd like for them to go to the front and us sit right off him,” Gargan said. “I don't know what Todd is going to do with his colt. He rated first time out, the last time he went to the lead, but it was a slow pace. If he goes, we'll see. I don't think (jockey) Irad (Ortiz, Jr.) will go with him. Irad is a patient rider. I think he'll sit third, hopefully.”

Gargan agreed with the suggestion that at 15-1 on the morning line, Dornoch might be getting overlooked.

“I'm good with it,” he said. “They're just looking at the Derby. I guess no one really watched the race but if you watch the replay, you can see he never got the chance to run. If he gets to run, I don't know if he'll win, but he's going to run big.”

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Virgin Colada Delivers Big Kick to Give Resolute a Notable Victory
  2. Quiet on the Board, Nyquist First-Timer Immersive Wins Spa Maiden
  3. Saratoga Notebook, Presented By NYRA Bets: McPeek Says He Will Make Travers Decision on Thorpedo Anna Saturday
  4. Virgin Colada Sweeps Home To Scoop Up 'TDN Rising Star' Badge At Saratoga
  5. Raging Sea A Torrent In Shuvee Victory

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.