June 24, 2024

Dornoch holds sway in scratch-depleted Fountain of Youth

Dornoch wins The Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park
Dornoch wins the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park (Photo by Coglianese Photography / Credit to Lauren King)

Remsen (G2) hero Dornoch was the last major contender standing after a flurry of scratches decimated Saturday’s $400,000 Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, and the 1-5 favorite got the job done in his sophomore reappearance.

The full brother to last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) star Mage, Dornoch was set to clash with Breeders’ Futurity (G1) victor Locked; Speak Easy, the impressive winner of the same Pegasus World Cup Day maiden that launched Mage; and Victory Avenue, second in that fast maiden.

But all three ended up scratching. Locked and Victory Avenue were ruled out earlier Saturday, while Speak Easy was a late scratch after reportedly getting loose in the post parade. Also withdrawn, as expected, was Merit, who opted instead for Friday’s allowance race and finished runner-up to the dominant Conquest Warrior.

Only four rivals were left to challenge Dornoch, who now faced an easier comeback spot than trainer Danny Gargan had foreseen. Gargan’s pre-race caution that Dornoch wasn’t fully cranked might have created uncertainty, and sparked memories.

Both sire Good Magic and brother Mage had been beaten in the Fountain of Youth. Good Magic was a ring-rusty third in his first start back, while Mage was a troubled fourth straight off his debut score. Dornoch, ready enough in the circumstances, won the trophy that had eluded them.

With the other high-profile speed all out of the race, Luis Saez kept it simple aboard Dornoch and allowed him to stride forward through an opening quarter in :24.39. Le Dom Bro, who first showed speed on the rail, remained an attending presence. Real Macho pressed on the outside through the half in :48.14, until he called it a day on the far turn.

Le Dom Bro tried valiantly to take another run at Dornoch passing six furlongs in 1:11.43, but the favorite shrugged off his renewed bid in the stretch. Forging ahead on his wrong lead, Dornoch eventually switched to his right and held sway by 1 3/4 lengths.

By negotiating 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.64, Dornoch banked another 50 points. His total of 60 puts him second on the Derby leaderboard behind Timberlake’s 66 points.

Le Dom Bro salvaged second by a head from Frankie’s Empire, reversing their exacta from the Feb. 3 Swale S. Real Macho faded to fourth, and Dancing Groom was outrun from the start. The respective second through fifth earned Derby points on the 25-15-10-5 scale.

Campaigned by West Paces Racing, R.A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing, and Pine Racing Stables, Dornoch has compiled a mark of 5-3-2-0, $505,400. The $325,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase was a solid second on debut at Saratoga last summer. Dornoch stepped up in trip to try the Sapling S. next time, only to be nailed in second after a tough trip.

The blaze-faced bay then crushed a Keeneland maiden, making him the 17-10 favorite for the Remsen. Although he was collared by Sierra Leone at Aqueduct, Dornoch roared back to win in a photo, and extended his streak to three in the Fountain of Youth.

Dornoch and Mage were produced by the Grade 2-placed stakes queen Puca, a Big Brown half-sister to Grade 1-winning millionaire Finnegans Wake. Puca boasts a perfect record as a broodmare, with her first foal being the multiple stakes-placed Gunning. Mage was her second, and Dornoch has accomplished more than his brother at this stage.

Puca’s current two-year-old, a McKinzie colt, sold for $1.2 million at Keeneland last September. Back in foal to Good Magic for 2024, she commanded $2.9 million from John Stewart at Keeneland in November.