Dornoch – Kentucky Derby Context

April 18th, 2024

A full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage, Dornoch convincingly broke his maiden going two turns at Keeneland last fall, but he refused to change leads and did not run straight through the stretch. The speedy colt concluded his juvenile season by taking the Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct but continued to display erratic behavior, re-rallying to prevail by a nose after suddenly veering in and losing momentum by hitting the rail with a clear lead in upper stretch. In two starts this year, Dornoch loafed on the front end when controlling a slow pace in a Fountain of Youth (G2) win at Gulfstream and resented being rated in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland, tossing his head behind horses on the first turn and into the backstretch, eventually winding up a non-threatening fourth. Those slow performances are disconcerting. Dornoch is expected to be hustling from the break in the Kentucky Derby, and remains a promising and talented type, but his lack of professionalism must be overcome.

Owner: West Paces Racing (Larry Connolly), R.A. Hill Stable (Raymond Hill III), Belmar Racing and Breeding (Vito Cucci), Two Eight Racing (Jayson Werth), and Pine Racing Stables (Mark Pine) campaign Dornoch. It will be the first Kentucky Derby appearance for all but R.A. Hill Stable, who co-owned Vekoma (12th) and Tax (14th) in 2019. West Paces is also co-owner of Society Man, who earned a spot in the 2024 Kentucky Derby field with a runner-up effort in the Wood Memorial (G2). 

Trainer: A Louisville native, Danny Gargan will make his second Kentucky Derby appearance, finishing 14th with Tax in 2019. His father, Danny Gargan, won the 1973 Kentucky Oaks aboard Bag of Tunes, and Gargan worked as an assistant trainer and jockey agent before launching his training career in 2013. Gargan will also train Society Man in the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

Jockey: Luis Saez made his first Kentucky Derby appearance in 2013 and will bring a 10-0-0-1 record into this year’s edition. The 31-year-old launched his professional career in his native Panama and began riding in the United States in 2009, quickly rising through the ranks. Saez rode Maximum Security, who finished first in the 2019 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified and placed 17th for interference. His best official result came aboard Essential Quality, promoted to third in the 2021 edition, and Saez guided Essential Quality to victory in the Belmont (G1) five weeks later. 

Breeder/Sales: Bred in Kentucky by Robert Clay’s Grandview Equine, Dornoch sold for $325,000 as a yearling at the 2022 Keeneland September sale. Grandview also bred Mage, and Dornoch will be their second Kentucky Derby starter as a breeder.

Sire: After being named champion two-year-old male in 2017, Good Magic finished second in the Kentucky Derby to eventual Triple Crown winner Justify. Good Magic earned a measure of revenge at stud, siring 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage from his first crop, and he’s by two-time Horse of the Year and Hall of Famer Curlin, who finished third in the 2007 Kentucky Derby and won the Preakness. Good Magic hails from a mare by 2007 Kentucky Derby runner-up Hard Spun, and he’s also the sire of Society Man in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

Dam: The third foal from the stakes-winning Puca, who finished 12th in the 2015 Kentucky Oaks (G1) following a runner-up finish in the Gazelle (G2), Dornoch will try to give his dam a second consecutive Kentucky Derby winner. Puca is by 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner Big Brown, and she’s a half-sister to five-time graded turf stakes winner and $1.5 million earner Finnegans Wake, hero of the 2015 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (G1) on the Kentucky Derby undercard. By Boundary, Big Brown counts multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Dortmund, third in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, as his top performer as a sire.

Top Brisnet Speed: 98
Top Brisnet Late Pace: 95