Mage's Full-Brother Dornoch Upsets Belmont Stakes

Dornoch | Sarah Andrew


SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY–Coming into this year's GI Belmont S., Dornoch (Good Magic) had the credentials to be a good one. As a full-brother to last year's GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage, the pedigree was certainly there. His rider, Luis Saez, is one of the leading jocks in the country, having registered his first victory in a Classic with Essential Quality in the 2021 GI Belmont S. Not to mention that the colt had already won a pair of graded stakes–last season's GII Remsen S. in addition to the GII Fountain of Youth S. this year. But most did not believe, as reflected by the 17-1 odds that the colt was given while facing nine others in the final leg in the Triple Crown. But standing staunchly in his corner and never wavering was trainer Danny Gargan.

“I never lost faith in him,” the New York-based trainer said. “He had tremendous works up here. He's a big powerful horse. You just have to be patient and not lose focus and just grind away, and hopefully, you get lucky and win one of these. And today, we did.”

Favored by a clean break from post six, Dornoch slid to the front as GI Preakness S. winner Seize the Grey (Arrogate), Resilience (Into Mischief) and the well-backed 'TDN Rising Star' Mindframe (Constitution) rushed up to argue the issue in the early going. Meanwhile, favored fellow 'Rising Star' Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) broke slightly outward, precipitating a chain reaction that caused him to bounce off Mindframe, who was being hustled into position from his high draw, and then slamming into Honor Marie (Honor Code) and Protective (Medaglia d'Oro) to his inside.

As the front rank cut out a legitimate initial quarter in :22.99, Dornoch remained a close second to Seize the Grey through a slightly softer half in :47.25, as Mindframe, Resilience and Antiquarian (Preservationist) tracked that group from just over a length behind. With little change up front through three-quarters in 1:10.67, Sierra Leone was still far back, over a dozen lengths from the pacesetter. Dornoch was given the cue to go on, and he stuck his neck in front leaving the far turn and was running easily as Seize the Grey fought back to his inside while Mindframe wouldn't let up on the outside. Slipped over to the rail by Saez for the stretch drive, Dornoch continued to show the way as the early leader retreated with Mindframe seemingly poised to run by. However, the lightly raced colt appeared to have his sights set on a hot dog because he drifted out markedly, losing valuable real estate in the process. Making up ground but not having a better time of it behind, Sierra Leone exchanged bumps with Protective, causing both horses to lose momentum. Despite the difficulties behind, Dornoch continued to roll up front, and despite the best efforts from Mindframe and pilot Irad Ortiz, Jr. in deep stretch, it was Dornoch who held on to a half-length score. Mindframe, sent off at 5-1, was a length ahead of the late-surging Sierra Leone, who finally unfurled his long legs, but as was the case when nosed out in the Kentucky Derby, it was too late to land the main prize. The Preakness winner Seize the Grey faded to seventh while Mystik Dan (Goldencents), who never seemed to get into the mix, finished eighth.

“It was a pretty good race,” said Saez, who has been aboard Dornoch in six of the colt's seven prior starts. “The horse broke pretty sharp. The position we were looking for. He did everything right. He came to the top of the stretch, I still have a lot of horse and he fights. He fights to get there first. He's a horse that really has a big heart and man, he ran the perfect race.”

Redemption is sweet and Gargan, who has remained high on his charge since the colt's 10th-place finish in the Derby, reveled in a victory well earned.

“I'm still just taking it in,” said Gargan, winning his first Classic. “It's pretty exciting. It's a special thing just to be a part of these races, not to mention to win one with a horse you bought at Keeneland and have had it for its whole [racing] life. I spend so much time with him and my staff has done such a great job with him.”

Immediately following the race, trainer Todd Pletcher indicated that he thought the Repole Stable and St Elias Stable-owned runner-up would get up in time, but his errant ways likely cost him the win.

“[Irad Ortiz, jr.] said he drifted out on him a little bit and it felt like [Mindframe] lost focus for a moment,” said Pletcher. “He angled him back inside so he could see Dornoch and he re-engaged and was closing but just ran out of time.”

Regarding the 'TDN Rising Star's inexperience, he added, “If he could have run a straight course down the lane, that would have been the difference. Irad felt like he just lost that little bit of focus. He was still coming at the end.”

However, despite the disappointment in not getting the win, Pletcher was complimentary of the winner.

“Obviously, I know he is a full brother to a Derby winner and I know Danny and his team have always thought strongly that he is a top horse,” Pletcher said. “I think maybe he got sidetracked a little bit along the way trying to figure out his running style, but he has always shown quality.”

After a pair of admirable efforts by his colt in his last two starts, including a last-out second in the Preakness, trainer Kenny McPeek was pragmatic about Mystik Dan's effort.

“Brian [Hernandez Jr.] said he was kind of spinning his wheels over this track,” he said. “It looked to me that the racetrack was a little deeper than normal. I thought it might have changed over the course of the day. We thought some of the others would go [to the lead] and they did but the speed held. Dornoch was right on the lead with Seize the Grey, and he backed up too.”

Asked whether he thought the Triple Crown might had taken its toll on the colt, he said, “The horse had acted really good coming into this race. He was training well and eating well and I didn't see a difference. Maybe tomorrow morning we'll see something different.

“Look, we've had a great season with him. We'll back off of him and give him a little bit of a break and regroup.”

Hernandez was also disappointed by the result, with Mystik Dan finishing out of the money for the first time since January.

“He didn't leave there as sharp as we would have liked him to but he has run two really hard races in the Derby and Preakness,” Hernandez said. “Around the first turn, he wasn't traveling as I would have liked him to, but, at the same time, I was still kind of hoping he would pick it up. Around the second turn, he picked it up nicely and I was like, 'ok, we are going to be in good shape.' But when he turned, for home..”

Back Form Holds the Answer

While many judged Dornoch based on his two latest starts, a fourth in the Apr. 6 GI Toyota Blue Grass S. and 10th in the Kentucky Derby, the striking bay never finished worse than second in his first five career starts. Runner-up in the slop here last July, he filled the same spot next time out in Monmouth's Sapling S. in August. A resounding 6 1/2-length winner in a Keeneland maiden in October, the $325,000 Keeneland September purchase bested Sierra Leone by a nose in the Remsen before adding another win at Gulfstream in the Fountain of Youth. Since his Derby disappointment, Dornoch recorded two official four-furlong works–the first in :48.48 at Saratoga May 24 and the latest a :48.68 work June 1.

“We got up here three days [after the Derby] and we were pointing toward this race,” said Gargan. “We tried to do the best we could and keep him as happy as we could. He was training phenomenal and worked great here a couple of times. They overlooked him here because he ran one bad race but they'll probably give him a little more of a look next time.”

All-Star Team Bags the Belmont

Winning a big-league championship like the Super Bowl, World Series or World Cup is no easy feat. Just ask Jayson Werth who accomplished the feat in 2008 when his team, the Philadelphia Phillies, won the World Series. The former All-Star, who announced his retirement in 2018, is the first to admit that he's a fortunate guy. Looking for something to occupy himself with following his retirement, he launched Two Eight Racing in 2021 (Werth wore number 28 during his days as a ball player), and what he lacks in experience and numbers, he has more than made up for with quality, highlighted by Dornoch.

“I didn't find racing, racing found me,” he said moments after Dornoch's Classic win. Werth owns the colt in partnership with longtime owner Randy Hill, West Paces Racing LLC, Belmar Racing and Breeding and Pine Racing Stables.

“I didn't do anything. That's what these guys are for,” said Werth pointing to Gargan and Hill. “I've got good partners and a good trainer, and a great horse. I'll put this up there with anything I've ever done. This is the top of sports. Horse racing is the most underrated sport there is. This is as big as it gets. The emotions you feel when you play in a playoff game, when you win a World Series game, it is the top of sports, and this is where we're at.”

According to Werth, he met Gargan at Keeneland and the pair hit it off, with the trainer convincing the former baller to invest in racehorses.

“After I retired, I went to the Keeneland sale to buy some fillies and I ran into Danny and his guys. And he said, 'You should get in on this horse, he's going to be a Derby horse.' And I said, 'Yeah right.' But I was in the mood and saying yes to a lot of things so bought a few horses that day.' But the first horse I bought was Dornoch, Danny convinced me to buy him, and 'lo and behold we ran in the Derby and won the Belmont. It's unbelievable. Let's keep going!”

Gargan, who felt he missed out on purchasing Mage when he went through the sales ring, was determined to get his brother Dornoch, landing the colt for $325,000 at the Keeneland September Sale in 2022.

“At the time we had bought him, Mage hadn't won,” he recalled. “But I had seen Mage work in Maryland at the [Fasig-Tipton Midlantic] 2-year-old in Training Sale and I regretted not buying him because he didn't sell for crazy money. So at Keeneland, I really wanted to buy this horse. So we were lucky enough to buy him and it's been a great ride.”

Pedigree Notes:

'TDN Rising Star' Puca already produced 2023 GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage and now adds Mage's full-brother Dornoch as another Classic winner. While Puca is believed to be the ninth mare in history to produce two separate winners of two American Classics, she is only the second to produce individual Kentucky Derby and Belmont winners, following the legendary 1885 mare Cinderella, whose Hastings won the 1896 Belmont and whose Plaudit won the 1898 Derby. Only two other mares in modern history have produced two separate American Classic winners: Better Than Honour (Rags to Riches and Jazil, both in the Belmont) and Weekend Surprise (Summer Squall in the Preakness and A.P. Indy in the Belmont).

John Stewart of Resolute Racing, relatively new to the sport, purchased Puca in 2023 from the Case Clay consignment at Keeneland November for $2.9 million post-sale. She produced a full-brother to Mage and Dornoch for Stewart Apr. 4. Both Mage and Dornoch were bred by Robert Clay's Grandview Equine, who originally purchased the former 'TDN Rising Star' for $475,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale. Including her first foal, Gunning (Gun Runner), Puca has three stakes performers from the same number of starters. Puca also has the unraced 2-year-old colt Baeza (McKinzie), who sold to Mayberry Farm for $1.2 million at Keeneland September. She was bred back to Good Magic for 2025.

Dornoch is one of the nine graded winners from 17 black-type winners by Hill n' Dale's Good Magic, who sends just his third crop to the races this year. In addition to his two Classic winners, Good Magic also has additional Grade I winners in Muth and Blazing Sevens, both also 'TDN Rising Stars.' The son of Curlin was the leading first-crop sire of 2022 and is currently second to Justify on the leading third-crop sire list. –Jill Williams

Good Effort For Mindframe, But Not Good Enough to Win Belmont

by Tim Wilkin

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — Everyone who had anything to do with the young horse from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher knew this was going to be a tall order.

The task put in front of 'TDN Rising Star' Mindframe (Constitution) was a biggie. With just two starts under his halter, Pletcher, jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. and co-owner Mike Repole were asking the colt to beat some of the best 3-year-old horses in the country in Saturday's GI Belmont S. at Saratoga Race Course.

Kind of like a rookie being asked to guard LeBron James in the NBA or a 19-year-old being put on the mound against the New York Yankees.

And, you know what? Mindframe darn near pulled it off.

When the 156th running of the Belmont–at Saratoga for the first time ever because of construction at Belmont Park–was done, Mineframe had beaten all but one in the field of 10.

He finished a half-length behind upset winner Dornoch (Good Magic) in front of a raucous capped crowd of 50,000.

“He ran super,” Pletcher said, standing on the track after conferring with Ortiz while the connections of Dornoch were starting to rev up their celebration in the winner's circle. “Just his third start and first time at the distance. It was the first time he has really been challenged…all the things we were concerned about.”

And, if he didn't make a freshman mistake, he might have won the 1 1/4-mile race.

Just inside the three-sixteenths, Mindframe, racing on the outside, got a head in front of the game Dornoch and it looked like he might just go right on by and write another chapter of his impressive, but short, career.

When Ortiz went to use his riding crop on the left side, the horse shied away and drifted four to five paths just before the eighth pole. With Mineframe gliding toward the clubhouse, Dornoch took command of the race.

Pletcher, Ortiz and Repole weren't going to say Mindframe would have won if he didn't pull that stunt, but it sure didn't help.

“When I hit him once, he didn't do anything,” Ortiz said outside the jockeys' room. “I went to hit him a second time and, when I did, he reacted and he came out a little bit. It took some time to correct, and I hit him right-handed, and he came back. He just kept trying.”

He ran hard to the wire, just could not catch Dornoch.

Mindframe had come into the Belmont as perhaps the most intriguing horse. He had blitzed lesser competition with ease, winning a maiden an allowance by a combined 21 1/4 lengths.

Was this horse ready for prime time?

“We could have been laughed out of here,” Repole said, making his retreat from the track through the clubhouse with part of his entourage of 70. “You hear, 'look at these idiots; they are taking a chance with a good horse.”

Mindframe didn't make anyone look foolish. The decision was the right one. He ran, for the most part, a race that could have won the last leg of the Triple Crown.

“We are very proud of the horse, very proud of his effort,” Pletcher said. “For him to do that in only his third start speaks volumes about his quality. We are looking forward to going on to some more big races.”

The GI Travers S. at Saratoga during the regular 40-day summer meet at the Spa is an obvious goal. Pletcher said he would have to figure out a way to get him there. In the coming days and weeks, he will also be looking at what is next for Antiquarian (Preservationist), who was fifth, and Protective (Medaglia d'Oro), who checked in sixth.

Also, though, as summer beckons, the Belmont effort put in by Mindframe will be remembered and the team may wonder might have been.

“The bottom line is we can't run it again,” Repole, who owns the colt with Vinnie and Teresa Viola, said. “We came in second. I will watch the replay 100 times and I am going to come in second 100 times. You can't change that.”

Another Frustrating Day at the Office For Sierra Leone

by Mike Kane

SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — From the start almost to the end, GI Belmont S. 8-5 favorite Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) encountered a host of problems at Saratoga Race Course Saturday that resulted in a third-place finish.

Pretty much everything that could go wrong did for the 'TDN Rising Star', who was two noses away from starting his career with a 5-0 record. There was the stumble at the start of the 1 1/4-mile Belmont under new jockey Flavien Prat. From that awkward beginning leaving post nine, he banged into Mindframe (Constitution), who was to his outside. Sierra Leone ricocheted off that collision and banged into Honor Marie (Honor Code) to his inside. Meanwhile, GI Preakness winner Seize the Grey (Arrogate) led the field through the first quarter in :22.99 and got the half-mile in :47.25.

The horror show continued for furlong after furlong until Sierra Leone finally found his form near the top the stretch and made a solid but belated move into contention.

“He got knocked back pretty far and then he didn't really engage the bit until the quarter pole,” trainer Chad Brown said. “It looked like he wasn't going anywhere and he just grabbed the bit late and he came on and just missed. ”

Sierra Leone, last of 10 at one point on the second turn, ended up 1 1/2 lengths behind longshot winner Dornoch (Good Magic) and a length behind Mindframe, who ran greenly in the stretch.

Brown changed jockeys and Sierra Leone's bit after he lugged in badly and bumped with Forever Young in the stretch run of the Kentucky Derby. The sales-topping $2.3 million Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase co-owned by Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg, Rocket Ship Racing and Peter Brant, lost the Derby by a nose with his erratic finish. Though he appeared to lug in a bit in the Belmont stretch, that did not cost him the race. Brown noted that the track conditions worked against late-runners.

“It's a hard track to close ground on,” Brown said. “Really, only one race today someone closed. This would be the second one that closed. It's disappointing the way they had the track today, to be honest with you. It doesn't surprise me that a speed horse won the race.”

After the rough start, Brown said that Sierra Leone was unable to deliver the type of strategic acceleration he needed to get back into the race.

“My horse, he had an opportunity to improve his position on the backside and he really didn't do it,” Brown said. “It was a tough beat.”

Once he got Sierra Leone settled and running into the first turn, Prat figured things were OK.

“They were going quite fast so I was happy where I was,” he said. “I wish I could have gotten myself a little closer down the backside, but I was not able.”

Passing the quarter pole, Sierra Leone was on the move, but he found trouble again when Protective (Medaglia d'Oro) forced him to go very wide.

“The horse inside kept pushing me out,” Prat said. “I wish I could have just cleared him and get going. I was not able to do that. We got to the turn and I took him back to the inside and he came running, but he ran out of room.”


Saturday, Saratoga
BELMONT S. PRESENTED BY NYRA BETS-GI, $2,000,000, Saratoga, 6-8, 3yo, 1 1/4m, 2:01.64, ft.
1–DORNOCH, 126, c, 3, by Good Magic
                1st Dam: Puca (SW & GSP, $299,406), by Big Brown
                2nd Dam: Boat's Ghost, by Silver Ghost
                3rd Dam: Rocktheboat, by Summer Squall
1ST GRADE I WIN. ($325,000 Ylg '22 KEESEP). O-West Paces
Racing LLC, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, LLC,
Two Eight Racing, LLC and Pine Racing Stables; B-Grandview
Equine (KY); T-Danny Gargan; J-Luis Saez. $1,200,000. Lifetime
Record: 8-4-2-0, $1,752,275. *Full to Mage, GISW, $2,507,450;
1/2 to Gunning (Gun Runner), MSP, $278,835.
Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Mindframe, 126, c, 3, Constitution–Walk of Stars, by Street
1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. 'TDN Rising Star'. ($600,000 Ylg '22
KEESEP). O-Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables LLC; B-R. Larry
Johnson (MD); T-Todd A. Pletcher. $360,000.
3–Sierra Leone, 126, c, 3, Gun Runner–Heavenly Love, by
Malibu Moon. 'TDN Rising Star'. ($2,300,000 Ylg '22 FTSAUG).
O-Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor, Derrick Smith,
Westerberg, Rocket Ship Racing, LLC and Peter M. Brant;
B-Debby M. Oxley (KY); T-Chad C. Brown. $200,000.
Margins: HF, 1, 4. Odds: 17.70, 5.00, 1.70.
Also Ran: Honor Marie, Antiquarian, Protective, Seize the Grey, Mystik Dan, The Wine Steward, Resilience.
Click for the chart and the PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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. Gargan Makes Summer Plans for 'TDN Rising Star' Complexion
  2. Tickets On Sale For Horse Racing Women's Summit Event At Saratoga
  3. Complexion, Half To Jack Christopher, A 'TDN Rising Star' For Sire Complexity
  4. Saturday Insights: Full-Brother To Fierceness Debuts At Aqueduct
  5. Kiaran McLaughlin to Represent John Velazquez

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.