Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Maiden Watch: Dornoch impresses

October 16th, 2023

You never know where a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) contender might come from. Three weeks out from the Nov. 3 showdown at Santa Anita, possible starters are still emerging.

Consider Dornoch, a flashy maiden winner at Keeneland last Saturday. Perhaps the bay colt will skip the Juvenile in favor of an easier target, but his racing record to date suggests the Breeders’ Cup wouldn’t be an unrealistic target.

Dornoch debuted back in July at Saratoga, finishing second in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden special weight. One month later he stepped up in class and distance for the one-mile Sapling S. at Monmouth Park and ran a big race in defeat, leading into the homestretch before settling for second place by one length while pulling nine lengths clear of the third-place finisher. The form of the Sapling was flattered when the victorious Noted came back to finish second by a nose in the Bourbon (G2) at Keeneland.

Dornoch likewise did the Sapling form proud with his fine maiden victory at Keeneland. Setting fractions of :23.50, :47.70, and 1:12.93 in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight did nothing to tire the Danny Gargan trainee, who pulled away despite racing on his left lead to win by 6 1/2 lengths in 1:45.00. For comparison, three-year-old Lexington (G3) winner First Mission required 1:45.63 to win an $80,000 allowance optional claimer on the same afternoon.

As a son of Good Magic out of the Big Brown mare Puca, Dornoch is a full-brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage. Dornoch is bred to improve with maturity, so it’s unlikely we’ve seen his best yet, and a big future could be on the horizon.

Two other maiden winners impressed in sprints last Wednesday. At Keeneland, a seven-furlong maiden special weight went the way of Khanate, a Todd Pletcher trainee making his third career start. The son of Hightail failed to factor in his first two starts on dirt and turf at Saratoga, finishing fifth and eighth, but moved forward dramatically at Keeneland to dominate by 10 1/2 lengths in 1:25.21.

Cats By Five made a similarly nice impression in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis. Coming off a runner-up finish over the same track, distance, and class level on Aug. 30, Cats by Five dueled for the early lead before powering away to win his third career start by seven lengths in 1:04.41. Steve Asmussen conditions the son of Florida Derby (G1) winner and Kentucky Derby (G1) third-place finisher Audible.