Dornoch never got much of a breather in the $250,000 Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct on Saturday, but found just enough in the tank to re-rally and defeat Sierra Leone, who had poked his head in front in midstretch following a last-to-first rally.
The 17-10 favorite in the field of 10 two-year-olds, Dornoch led from the start under Luis Saez, though by no more than a half-length through honest fractions of :23.09, :46.97, and 1:11.56 over a muddy strip. Losing focus after being briefly passed by Sierra Leone at the furlong pole, Dornoch found more in the final yards and surged again inside Sierra Leone to win by a nose.
“When he saw the horse go by him, he gets to playing around, which he bounced off the rail today and when he gets out there by himself he loses focus,” said trainer Danny Gargan, who was winning the Remsen for the second year in a row. “If he sees another horse, he’s going to run back to him and today he proved it.”
Dornoch completed 1 1/8 miles in 1:50.30 and paid $5.40. He races for the partnership of West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing, and Pine Racing Stables.
Sierra Leone finished a clear second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Drum Roll Please. The order of finish was rounded out by Moonlight, Where’s Chris, Copper Tax, Domestic Product, Billal, Le Dom Bro, and Private Desire.
Dornoch earned 10 qualifying points toward the Kentucky Derby (G1), while Sierra Leone earned five points. Drum Roll Please secured three points, Moonlight two points (he now has seven), and Where’s Chris one point.
This was the second win in four starts for Dornoch. Second on debut in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden at Saratoga, he subsequently finished second in the one-mile Sapling S. at Monmouth Park to Noted. Back in the maiden ranks for his most recent start, Dornoch graduated by 6 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles at Keeneland.
“He’s a big, big horse,” Gargan said. “We are going to give him some time off and take him down to Palm Meadows, kind of like Nick Zito taught me when I was his assistant. We will tack walk him for a couple weeks, two to three weeks, play around with him, let him grow into that frame and start looking for races later, probably sometime in March. Two races, maybe three before the Derby.”
Dornoch is a full brother to the recently-retired Kentucky Derby winner Mage, both being by Good Magic and out of the Grade 2-placed stakes winner Puca. She is a Big Brown half-sister to Grade 1 winner Finnegans Wake.