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Dornoch, Werth’s former MLB star colt, upsets the Belmont at Saratoga

Dornoch, Werth’s former MLB star colt, upsets the Belmont at Saratoga

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — When Luis Saez rode Dornoch for the first time at Saratoga Race Course last summer, he told trainer Danny Gargan, “You’ve got a Derby winner.”

That didn’t come to pass, but Dornoch lived up to that optimism on Saturday by winning the maiden Belmont Stakes at Saratoga, hugging the rail and holding off Mindframe to pull off a major upset in the Triple Crown Finals by a 17-1 margin.

Dornoch, co-owned by world champion Jason Werth, won the Belmont five weeks after a tumultuous ride that resulted in a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. This time, Dornoch sat well behind leader Seize the Gray, passed the Preakness winner in the stretch and held on.

“I would put it first by winning on the biggest stage,” said Werth, who won a Major League Baseball championship with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. “Horse racing is the most underrated sport in the world, absolutely.” The Game: You’ve got the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont, we just won the Belmont, and that’s as good as it gets in sports.

It’s the first win in any triple-A championship for Gargan and the second at the Belmont for Saez, who said he never lost faith in Dornoch.

“He’s one of the best 3-year-olds in the country, and we’ve always believed that,” Gargan said. “We let him run his race and he won. If he can run, he’ll always be tough to beat.”

It is the sixth year in a row that a different horse has won each of the three Triple Crown races. Derby runner-up Sierra Leone, who was the favourite, finished third and Honor Marie finished fourth.

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“No one believed that horse,” Gargan said. “He’s speechless. He’s such a talented horse.”

Although there is no Triple Crown at stake, it is a historic Belmont because the race was held at Saratoga for the first time in the venue’s 161-year history. It returns next year as Belmont Park undergoes a massive $455 million rebuilding with the plan for the Triple Crown to return to the New York track in 2026.

His presence at Saratoga necessitated the race being shortened to 1¼ miles from the usual 1½-mile test of champion that has been the hallmark of the Belmont for nearly a century. The temporary change brought more quality horses into the field that had previously run in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or both.