Belmont Stakes Review 2024: Dornoch Banging at 17/1

Dornoch (Belmont Stakes 2024)Most bettors overlooked Dornoch in the 2024 Belmont Stakes, sending him off at 17/1 under Luis Saez in the $2 million 2024 Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the Triple Crown at Saratoga on June 8. The favorites were closing rapidly but he held on to win by half a length.

Those that supported him experienced excitement likely to elevate their blood pressure approaching the wire. Building work at Belmont Park had necessitated the relocation of their showpiece and the reduction in distance to a mile and quarter. The result would have been very different if there had been another quarter mile to run.

Dornoch was close to the pace from flagfall and managed to overcome the ominous challenges of more popular closers. Todd Pletcher’s Mindframe (5/1) was second under Irad Ortiz Jr. The strong-finishing 2/1 Belmont Stakes favorite, Sierra Leone, was a length further back after a troubled trip under Flavien Prat.

Sierra Leone was the clear Belmont Stakes favorite for good reason. He won the grade one Blue Grass at Keeneland in April and was only beaten a nose by Mystik Dan in the Kentucky Derby after a disastrous trip under Tyler Gaffalione. This son of Gun Runner, a $2.3 million dollar purchase as a yearling for John Magnier, Michael Tabor et al, is usually held up and consequently vulnerable to traffic problems but at Churchill Downs he was bumped and ran horribly wide. Flavien Prat was called on to partner him for the first time here.

In contrast, Dornoch looked to have lost his way recently. He scored in the grade two Remsen Stakes as a juvenile in December, beating Sierra Leone a nose on the muddy track at Aqueduct. In March he won a modest renewal of the Fountain of Youth, another grade two, starting 1/5 favorite and crossing the wire nearly two lengths ahead of his closest pursuer. He was not disgraced in the Blue Grass, finishing six and a half lengths behind Sierra Leone in fourth but was beaten 18 lengths in the Kentucky Derby after a troubled trip. He had been held up as usual.

Dornoch’s victory gave his trainer Danny Gargan his first grade one win and he claimed it as a victory for the ‘little guys’. His co-owner Jayson Werth, the retired baseball outfielder who had been a World Series Champion in 2008 and an MLB All-Star in 2009, said the feeling was as good as anything he had experienced in sport. He bought into the Good Magic colt, a full brother to the 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage, when he was purchased for $325,000 as a yearling at Keeneland. West Paces Racing and R A Hill Stable were among his partners. Randy Hill said he thought he was dreaming after the win.

What happened in the Belmont Stakes 2024?

The ten runners broke well and Jaime Torres pushed forward on Seize The Grey (5/1) from the inside gate, hoping to replicate the front-running tactics that proved so successful in the Preakness. After 75 yards he managed to get his head in front of Bill Mott’s Resilience (13/1) ridden by Junior Alvarado who was also making the most of his draw in the two gate. Seize The Grey settled on the rail with Resilience on his outside.

Dornoch was ridden positively by Saez from gate six towards the leaders. He raced towards the back of the pack last time out in the Kentucky Derby and encountered traffic problems when he tried to improve his position. Todd Pletcher’s Antiquarian (13/1) broke alongside him and was ridden forward by John Velazquez. There were ugly scenes towards the outside as Sierra Leone jumped to the right from gate nine, bumping into Mindframe and losing momentum. Pletcher’s Protective (19/1) executed a similar move from gate seven under Tyler Gaffalione, making contact with Honor Marie (14/1) ridden by Florent Geroux.

The early skirmishing left Sierra Leone and Honor Marie at the rear of the pack, just behind Protective. Irad Ortiz accelerated away from the foray on Mindframe and reached mid pack by the first turn. Brian Hernandez positioned Kenny McPeek’s Kentucky Derby winner, Mystik Dan (6/1), immediately behind the leading pair on the rail. Dornoch powered forward from his central draw and soon reached Seize The Grey’s girth. Resilience had dropped back to fourth place with Antiquarian and Michael Maker’s The Wine Steward (18/1) in his wake.

The opening quarter was run in 22.99 seconds, a second quicker than the same distance in the Preakness. Seize The Grey scraped the paint of the rail just ahead of Dornoch who maintained his spot on his outside. The next pair were Mindframe and Resilience with Antiquarian and The Wine Steward in their wake.

They covered the half mile in 47.25, the running order largely unchanged as they entered the back stretch. Sierra Leone was gradually edging closer to the pack leaving Honor Marie at the rear. Mystik Dan was finding things difficult and drifted back to seven lengths behind the lead. The three-quarter mile was clocked as 1 minute 10.67 as Seize The Grey and Dornoch had a length advantage over Mindframe who was clear of Resilience, Antiquarian and The Wine Steward in that order.

Dornoch headed the weakening Seize The Grey as they turned for home. Mindframe was staying on racing three wide and Sierra Leone was forced to run very wide by Protective when making his move to close. Dornoch had a three-length lead over Mindframe a furlong out but clung to the rail while Mindframe wandered away from it. The chasing pack was a length behind him, Honor Marie headed Seize The Grey and Sierra Leone was staying on, now four wide and passing Antiquarian.

Mindframe was straightened up by an extremely animated Ortiz and gradually edged closer to the tiring leader. Sierra Leone was staying on best behind him but failed to pose a serious challenge.

The conclusion for bettors after the 2024 Belmont Stakes is that there is no star colt this year. The best trip in all three legs of the Triple Crown was decisive.