Dornoch Pulls Off the Upset in Exciting Belmont Stakes at Saratoga

Racing
Dornoch Belmont Stakes Saratoga Triple Crown Luis Saez Danny Gargan Jayson Werth West Paces R A Hill Belmar Two Eight Racing Pine Racing Mindframe Sierra Leone Honor Marie Mystik Dan Seize the Grey horse racing Kentucky Derby Preakness trainer jockey
Jockey Luis Saez celebrates aboard Dornoch as the colt holds on to win the Belmont Stakes June 8 at Saratoga. (Eclipse Sportswire)

In a Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets sure to linger as a treasured memory for residents of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for generations to come, 17.70-1 longshot Dornoch pulled a stunning upset by fending off surging Mindframe by half a length Saturday before an electrified crowd at Saratoga Race Course.

The running of the 156th Belmont was as much about the site as it was about the startling outcome. Iconic Saratoga, which opened in 1863, hosted the final leg of the Triple Crown for the first time due to ongoing construction of a new Belmont Park. And the locals loved it, filling the track to its capped attendance level of 50,000.

“What a great idea NYRA (the New York Racing Association) had to bring the Belmont up here,” said Randy Hill, part of Dornoch’s ownership group. “There is no place like Saratoga. No owner wants to win at any place more than Saratoga.”

Added winning trainer Danny Gargan, a Louisville, Ky., native: “I think it’s the greatest racing facility in America.” Saratoga also will host the Belmont next year as Belmont Park continues a $455 million makeover.

The $2 million Belmont Stakes was contested at a mile and a quarter instead of the customary mile and a half due to Saratoga’s configuration. That distance was just right for Dornoch and just a tad short for lightly-raced Mindframe and hard-charging Sierra Leone, who settled for third.

Dornoch is a full brother to Mage, last year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve winner, as a son of Good Magic out of the Big Brown mare Puca. He won the Grade 2 Coolmore Fountain of Youth Stakes at the start of March but lost much of his shine after that when he came in fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes and faltered in 10th, 18 lengths behind Mystik Dan, in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. He had the misfortune of drawing the rail for the Derby and endured a troubled trip after that with jockey Luis Saez aboard.

Saez kept Dornoch in excellent position in the Belmont. He sat off Preakness Stakes winner Seize the Grey in the early going, then took over when that colt weakened. After that, it was a matter of holding off Mindframe – a colt that was making only his third start after two lopsided victories – and Kentucky Derby runner-up Sierra Leone.

Dornoch was all out in the final sixteenth of a mile to prevail, completing the mile and a quarter in 2:01.64. Honor Marie took fourth, four lengths back of Sierra Leone. Seize the Grey tired after setting the early pace and finished seventh, one spot ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan, who never fired.

Saez, Gargan (left), Werth (right) and others celebrate. (Eclipse Sportswire)

“No one believed in this horse, but those last two races were throw-out races,” Gargan emphasized. “I told Luis they wouldn’t beat him (in the Belmont).” The trainer attempted to teach the 3-year-old to rate in the Blue Grass in a failed experiment.

In contrast, the Belmont could not have unfolded any better. “He did everything right. He came to the top of the stretch and I still have a lot of horse and he fights,” Saez said. “He fights to get there first. He’s a horse that really has a big heart and, man, he ran the perfect race.”

Dornoch has won half of his eight starts with a pair of runner-up efforts while his career earnings spiked to $1,752,275. He is owned by West Paces Racing, Randy Hill, Belmar Racing, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables. Two Eight represents Jayson Werth, a former major league baseball outfielder.

Werth played in the big leagues from 2002-2017. He was a key figure when the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series in 2008, was an All-Star the following season and helped build the Washington Nationals franchise. He is a member of the Nationals’ Ring of Honor.

“I’ll put it up there with anything I’ve ever done,” Werth said of winning the Belmont with the first colt he ever owned. “Horse racing is the most underrated sport there is. This is as big as it gets. These are the emotions you feel when you win a playoff game, when you win a World Series game. The top of sports is the top of sports.”

Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher thought Mindframe’s inexperience led to a critical lack of focus during the stretch run. “If he could have run a straight course down the lane, that would have been the difference,” Pletcher said.

As for Sierra Leone, trainer Chad Brown felt his deep closer left himself with too much to do on a speed-favoring track as Flavien Prat replaced Tyler Gaffalione in the irons. “At the quarter pole, it looked like he wasn’t going anywhere, then he grabbed the bit late and he came on,” Brown said. “It’s a hard track to close ground on.”

While it is much too soon to make any plans for the rest of Dornoch’s schedule, Gargan said he would consider training his colt up to the Aug. 24 Travers Stakes at Saratoga as the wide-open race for 3-year-old division honors continues into the heat of summer.

NYRA announced all-sources betting handle for the Belmont Saturday card at Saratoga was $125,748,941, a record for a year when a Triple Crown was not on the line.

2024 Belmont S. Presented by NYRA Bets
June 8th, 2024

Winning Time: 2:01.64
  • Purse: $2,000,000
  • Distance: 1 1/4 Miles
  • Age: 3 yo
  • Surface: Dirt
  • Winning Time: 2:01.64
Results
Win
Place
Show
2nd
10 Mindframe
$6.80
$4.20
5th
5 Antiquarian
6th
7 Protective
7th
1 Seize the Grey
8th
3 Mystik Dan
9th
4 The Wine Steward
10th
2 Resilience
Payoff
Pick 3
2-9-6
2-9-6
$213
Pick 4
8-2-9-6
8-2-9-6
$514
Pick 5
1-8-2-9-6
1-8-2-9-6
$3,973
Pick 6
1-1-8-2-9-6
1-1-8-2-9-6
$35,034
Pick 6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
$259
Pick 6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
$50,278
Pick 6
1-1-8-2-9-6
1-1-8-2-9-6
$227
Daily Double
2-6 (MET MILE/BELMONT)
2-6 (MET MILE/BELMONT)
$240
Daily Double
5-6 (INTERCONTINENTAL/BELMONT)
5-6 (INTERCONTINENTAL/BELMONT)
$1,258
Daily Double
6-6 (JUST A GAME/BELMONT)
6-6 (JUST A GAME/BELMONT)
$886
Daily Double
3-6 (NEW YORK/BELMONT)
3-6 (NEW YORK/BELMONT)
$943
Daily Double
9-6 (ACORN/BELMONT)
9-6 (ACORN/BELMONT)
$258
Daily Double
9-6
9-6
$87
Exacta
6-10
6-10
$163
Superfecta
6-10-9-8
6-10-9-8
$320
Trifecta
6-10-9
6-10-9
$237
Payoff
Pick 3
2-9-6
2-9-6
$213
Pick 4
8-2-9-6
8-2-9-6
$514
Pick 5
1-8-2-9-6
1-8-2-9-6
$3,973
Pick 6
1-1-8-2-9-6
1-1-8-2-9-6
$35,034
Pick 6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
$259
Pick 6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
(TWO DAY)1/9-7-7-1-2-6
$50,278
Pick 6
1-1-8-2-9-6
1-1-8-2-9-6
$227
Daily Double
2-6 (MET MILE/BELMONT)
2-6 (MET MILE/BELMONT)
$240
Daily Double
5-6 (INTERCONTINENTAL/BELMONT)
5-6 (INTERCONTINENTAL/BELMONT)
$1,258
Daily Double
6-6 (JUST A GAME/BELMONT)
6-6 (JUST A GAME/BELMONT)
$886
Daily Double
3-6 (NEW YORK/BELMONT)
3-6 (NEW YORK/BELMONT)
$943
Daily Double
9-6 (ACORN/BELMONT)
9-6 (ACORN/BELMONT)
$258
Daily Double
9-6
9-6
$87
Exacta
6-10
6-10
$163
Superfecta
6-10-9-8
6-10-9-8
$320
Trifecta
6-10-9
6-10-9
$237

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