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Dornoch Triumphs in Historic Saratoga Debut of Belmont Stakes

When Luis Saez first rode Dornoch at Saratoga Race Course last summer, he confidently told trainer Danny Gargan, “You have the Derby winner.”

While that prediction didn’t come true, Dornoch vindicated Saez’s confidence on Saturday by winning the first Belmont Stakes held at Saratoga. Dornoch hugged the rail and held off Mindframe, pulling off a major upset in the Triple Crown finale with 17-1 odds.

Co-owned by World Series champion Jayson Werth, Dornoch’s victory came five weeks after a troubled trip led to a 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. This time, Dornoch sat behind leader Seize the Grey, overtook the Preakness winner down the stretch, and held on to win.

“I would put it right up there with winning on the biggest stage. Horse racing is the most underrated sport in the world, bar none,” said Werth, who won Major League Baseball’s championship with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. “It’s the biggest game: You get the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont. We just won the Belmont. This is as good as it gets in horse racing. It’s as good as it gets in sports.”

This marks Gargan’s first win in any Triple Crown race and the second Belmont win for Saez, who said he never lost faith in Dornoch.

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

This year marks the sixth consecutive year that a different horse has won each of the three Triple Crown races. Sierra Leone, the Derby runner-up and favorite, finished third, while Honor Marie came in fourth.

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

Even without a Triple Crown on the line, this Belmont Stakes was historic, as it was held at Saratoga for the first time in the venue’s 161-year history. The race will return to Saratoga next year while Belmont Park undergoes a massive, $455 million reconstruction, with plans for the Triple Crown to return to the New York track in 2026.

Running the Belmont at Saratoga required shortening the race to 1.25 miles from the usual 1.5-mile “test of the champion” distance that has defined the Belmont for nearly a century. This temporary change attracted more quality horses who had previously competed in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, or both.

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