Belmont Winner Dornoch Could Run Next in Haskell

Dornoch and co-owner Randy Hill | Sarah Andrew


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY-A steady rain Sunday morning wasn't going to put a damper on the mood at the barn of trainer Danny Gargan on the Saratoga backstretch.

When you have the winner of the GI Belmont S. in one of your stalls, a lousy morning isn't going to feel so bad. And Dornoch (Good Magic), the upset winner of the Belmont, does indeed live in Gargan's barn.

“My phone had 290 text messages on it,” Gargan said, standing outside his office. “My phone hasn't stopped ringing. He came out of the race great; he's standing around biting everybody today.”

Dornoch, a full-brother to 2023 GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage, backed up Gargan's confidence in the Belmont when he won the 1 1/4-mile race by a half-length over Mindframe (Constitution) at odds of 17-1.

In his two prior starts, Dornoch ran a non-threatening fourth in the GI Toyota Blue Grass S. then was nowhere in the Kentucky Derby, finishing 10th.

“I kept telling everyone you can throw the Derby out,” Gargan said. “He had no chance. He drew the one hole and 100 yards into the race, he got checked and it was over. I got him beat in the Blue Grass. We wanted to take him off the lead in the Blue Grass and school him and toughen him up for the Derby. That was our decision. I was never frustrated with the horse. I was frustrated with his trips.”

Dornoch has been in Saratoga since right after the Kentucky Derby and he will continue his stay here, repeating the routine from last year when he was at the Spa from April to October.

The main summer goal is the GI Travers S. Aug. 24. Gargan said Dornoch could run in the GI Haskell S. at Monmouth July 20 or the GII Jim Dandy S. at Saratoga July 27. After that, Gargan said Dornoch could run in the GI Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Sept. 21.

Gargan said he never felt any pressure training Dornoch, even though he had an attractive pedigree that suggested he could be special.

“No, because I knew he could run,” Gargan said. “Two months before he ever ran, I said he was the best horse I ever trained. I knew what I had.”

McPeek Had an Up and Down Couple of Days

There was euphoria and disappointment in a span of 24 hours for trainer Kenny McPeek.

On Friday, super filly Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna) dominated the GI Acorn S., winning by 5 1/2 lengths.

The next day, GI Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan (Goldencents) was never a factor in the GI Belmont S., finishing eighth in the field of 10.

“It's part of the sport,” McPeek said Sunday by phone. “It's never easy. We asked a lot out of [Mystik Dan]. Obviously, we wanted to run better, but, again, it's part of the game. That's what makes it so difficult.”

McPeek said Mystik Dan did not handle the Saratoga track very well and, in hindsight, said maybe he should have trained him more over it in the days leading up to the Belmont. Mystik Dan did most of his pre-Belmont work on the Oklahoma Training Track.

Next up for Mystik Dan is some rest. The summer goal is the GI Travers at Saratoga Aug. 24.

“With all the races he has had [six this year] and all the training, I think he deserves a big break,” McPeek said.

The long-range schedule for Mystik Dan, McPeek said, also includes the GI Pennsylvania Derby at Parx Sept. 21 and the GI Breeders' Cup Classic at Del Mar Nov. 2.

As for Thorpedo Anna, don't expect to see McPeek run her any time soon against males.

McPeek said she will be pointed to the GI Coaching Club American Oaks and GI Alabama S. at Saratoga. She has won five of six career starts, and is three-for-three this year, including the GI Kentucky Oaks.

“Look, I like challenges, but I also think this filly is so good that she could run the table in the 3-year-old filly division,” McPeek said. “If she were to win the GI [Breeders' Cup] Distaff, would that make her Horse of the Year? The conservative approach would probably be the wise one as opposed to putting her in deeper water that she doesn't have to go into.”

Lukas will Return with Seize the Grey

By 10 a.m. Sunday morning, the GI Belmont S. and Saratoga Race Course had long disappeared from Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas' rear-view mirror. He and GI Preakness S. champ Seize the Grey (Arrogate) were on the way home to Louisville.

The sting of Saturday's sixth-place finish in the Belmont had begun to subside as the travel party barreled through Erie, Pa. They departed Saratoga at 6:45 Sunday morning.

“He gave me every indication he was going to run a big one,” Lukas, riding shotgun in the truck ahead of the van transporting Seize the Grey, said by phone. “I thought he would run a lot stronger race. He flattened out in that last quarter and that surprised me.”

Seize the Grey set swift early fractions [:22.99, :47.25] as he set the pace, but then tired after being overtaken by Dornoch (Good Magic), who had followed him throughout.

“It was a little quick, but the eventual winner was right there, too,” Lukas said.

Lukas said he will be back in Saratoga with a full barn later this month. Seize the Grey will also return with an eye on the 40-day summer meet's biggest prize, the GI Travers S. Aug. 24.

Whether Seize the Grey runs before the Midsummer Derby has yet to be decided. Lukas said Sunday that he is considering running in the GI Haskell S. at Monmouth July 20.

“We'll look at the Haskell,” Lukas said. “It's a million-dollar race, so it's not exactly off the radar.”

He will also consider the GII Jim Dandy S., which is run at Saratoga July 27.

Seize the Grey, Lukas said, came out of the Belmont OK. He did have a “some nicks and cuts” on a hind leg.

“We'll deal with that,” Lukas said. “Nothing serious. He is all right.”

Mott Still Needs an Answer

Going into the GI Belmont S., Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott said he needed to find out if Resilience (Into Mischief) could handle a mile and a quarter.

After Resilience finished last–beaten 33 1/4 lengths–in the 10-horse field, he still doesn't know.

“I learned nothing,” Mott said outside his barn at the Oklahoma Training Track Sunday. “The race was too bad to be true.”

Resilience finished sixth in the GI Kentucky Derby and Mott decided to give his colt another chance at the 1 1/4-mile distance in the Belmont. He stormed into contention in the Run for the Roses while running wide and then retreated.

In the Belmont, Resilience, who won the GII Wood Memorial, didn't do much of anything.

“He was done at the half-mile pole,” jockey Junior Alvarado said Sunday morning. “It was not his day; he just didn't show up. We are just scratching our heads. Eventually, he might not want to go [1 1/4 miles], but I can't judge him from this race.”

Mott said he might have to dig deeper as to what contributed to such a poor performance in the Belmont.

“When they run that poorly, we need to look and see if there is something wrong that we are missing,” he said. “Something is out of whack.”

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