Feature Story

No one believed in this horse. I never lost faith in him: Gargan

No one believed in this horse. I never lost faith in him: Gargan Jun 9, 2024

By Duane Fonseca - 

Danny Gargan’s faith in Dornoch earned him rich dividends in the form of a first-ever top-tier success at Saratoga on Saturday as his trainee threw the odds out of the window to spring a massive surprise in the 156th running of the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes.

Owned by West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing and Pine Racing Stables, the Luis Saez ridden Good Magic colt prevailed by a half length to win the third and final leg of the American Triple Crown.

With the race being moved to Saratoga on account of renovations to Belmont Park, the distance had been cut down to 2000m instead of the traditional 2400m and it worked out perfectly for Gargan and Saez, with the heavily-backed Mindframe (Todd Pletcher/Irad Ortiz Jr.) and race-favourite Sierra Leone (Chad C Brown/Flavien Prat) closing in sharply during the final moments.

Dornoch’s only two wins in six previous starts had been gained at G2 level when winning the Remsen and the Coolmore Fountain of Youth Stakes at Aqueduct and Gulfstream Park respectively. He had failed to find the podium in two outings in G1 company before the Belmont, the second of those yielding a dismal 10th place finish behind Mystik Dan in the Kentucky Derby, who raced here alongside Preakness Stakes winner Seize The Grey, the pace setter.

Saez held a good position aboard Dornoch, just off the pace, and pounced rounding the final turn. Mindframe challenged him turning for home, but lost focus on straightening and strayed to take the pressure off a bit and leave Dornoch to power home to a half-length success. Sierra Leone closed in rapidly but could only finish third, a further length behind.

Gargan said: “No one believed in this horse, but those last two races were throw out races. I told Luis they wouldn't beat him today.
“I never lost faith in him. 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.”

Winning rider Saez commented: “When I rode this horse here at Saratoga last year, I told Danny he had the Derby winner. Unfortunately, the Derby is a crazy race, but we had a good trip today.”

Dornoch’s ecstatic co-owner Randy Hill added: “Nobody ever wake me up. I'll be damn mad. Let me keep dreaming. I said to my parents, to Danny and Luis, ‘Let's run our race today, let's get the lead, and if anybody can beat us, let them come and get us’.”