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Dornoch Constructs 17-1 Belmont Stakes Upset at Saraotoga

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It was fitting that this year’s running of the Belmont Stakes produced a different winner from the first two jewels of the Triple Crown.

Mystik Dan pulled off the upset in the Kentucky Derby, and Seize the Grey seized the moment to take the Preakness Stakes.

On Saturday evening, it was Dornoch who stepped into the spotlight in a unique edition of the Belmont Stakes.

Trained by Danny Gargan for an ownership group that includes World Series champion Jayson Werth, Dornoch, at 17-1, bested Mindframe by a half-length in a time of 2:01.64. Sierra Leone was third and Honor Marie finished fourth.

The race was held at Saratoga Race Course for the first time instead of its traditional home at Belmont Park, where the race has been mostly run since 1905 after it was moved from Morris Park Racecourse in Westchester County, New York.

Last December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul announced the 2024 Belmont would be run at Saratoga in Saratoga Springs, New York, three hours north of Belmont, due to major racetrack renovations at the latter oval.

On a partly cloudy night at Saratoga, it was Dornoch who was constructing a masterpiece in the race that saw a bump in purse money from $1.5 million to $2 million, and a shortened distance from 1 1/2 miles to 1 1/4 miles because of the track shape.

Tenth in the Kentucky Derby, the son of Good Magic-Puca was brilliant at the venue where his career began with a second last July.

Under jockey Luis Saez, Dornoch, who won three straight races from last October to this March, including the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream, dug deep to secure his first Grade 1 triumph.

Third and the quarter, second at the half, and on top by a head after a mile, Dornoch, a half-length behind Mindframe at the stretch call, came back to earn the win over a “fast” track.

“It was perfect,” said Saez of Dornoch’s effort to fend off Mindframe. 

The multiple graded stakes-winning rider earned his second Belmont win, while Gargan recorded his first.

“He’s one of the top 3-year-olds in the country, and we’ve always thought it,” Gargan said of Dornoch. “We let him run his race and he won. If he gets to run, he’s always going to be tough to beat.”

“When I rode this horse here in Saratoga for the first time (July 29), I told Danny, ‘You have the Derby winner,’” Saez said. “Unfortunately, the Derby’s a crazy race and we draw that No. 1 hole. Today, we had pretty good confidence that we could win this race.”

Dornoch paid $37.40 for the win.

The Belmont renovation, pegged to cost half a billion dollars, is anticipated to last through 2025 and be ready for the race the following year. Plans call for the demolition of the current Belmont Park grandstand and clubhouse, replacement of fencing throughout the backstretch, and modernizing the barn area.

The last time the Belmont Stakes was not held at Belmont Park was in 1967 because of another renovation at the venue. The races from 1963 to 1967 were held at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York.

Only 13 horses in horse racing history have claimed all three U.S. Triple Crown races, most recently Justify, in 2018. 

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