Dornoch Comes Out on Top in G2 Fountain of Youth

March 2, 2024

Dornoch pulls away to win the Fountain of Youth (Coglianese)

David Joseph/Gulfstream Park

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla.— Dornoch, a full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mage, made a significant step along the Road to the Triple Crown Saturday at Gulfstream Park, scoring a commanding victory in the $400,000 Coolmore Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park as the 1-5 favorite.

The 78th running of the Coolmore Fountain of Youth, a 1 1/16-mile stakes for 3-year-olds that serves as a key prep for the $1 million Curlin Florida Derby (G1) March 30 at Gulfstream, headlined a spectacular 14-race program that featured nine stakes, eight graded.

Dornoch has earned 60 qualifying points for this year’s Kentucky Derby after collecting 50 in the Fountain of Youth.

“We could run in the Florida Derby or the Blue Grass (at Keeneland April 6),” trainer Danny Gargan said. “We’re lucky enough now where we can pick our spot. Sixty points usually gets you in, so now we’re on cruise control. We’ll figure out where we want to go next and try to enjoy this for a minute.”

The Fountain of Youth field was reduced to five when Speak Easy was scratched after unseating jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. and running off directly following the post parade. The field had already lost Merit, who finished second behind Conquest Warrior in a Friday optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream, as well as Locked, the 8-5 morning-line favorite, and Victory Avenue, who finished second behind Speak Easy in his debut, both of whom were withdrawn Saturday morning.

Owned by West Paces Racing LLC, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing, Pine Racing Stables, Dornoch took advantage of the scratch of Speak Easy, who showed brilliant speed in a highly promising debut victory Jan. 27. The son of Good Magic rounded the first turn outside 25-1 longshot Le Dom Bro before taking the lead for good at the top of the backstretch under Luis Saez. Real Macho was kept in relatively close pursuit by jockey Tyler Gaffalione as Dornoch set fractions of 24.39 and 48.14 for the first half-mile.

As Real Macho dropped back, Le Dom Bro tried to make a race of it again leaving the turn into the stretch under Edwin Gonzalez, but Dornoch remained strong in the stretch run to win by 1 ¾ lengths.

“We didn’t want to be on the lead but when [Speak Easy] scratched, he gets out there and he kind of plays around. You can see him with his ears kind of goofing off. I told Luis, ‘Just go ahead and go,” Gargan said. “We had no choice. We really wanted to stalk today, it just didn’t work out that way. He won fine enough. Surely it won’t be his fastest race. We didn’t expect to win today. It just kind of played out that way. I don’t think he ran very hard. He was just kind of playing around out there.”

Dornoch, who ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.64, was making his 2024 debut after capturing the Dec. 2 Remsen (G2) at Aqueduct, fighting back to score a nose decision over Sierra Leone, who won the Risen Star (G2) at Fair Grounds in his 3-year-old debut.

“I was very confident. I had a lot of horse,” Saez said. “I knew he was going to give me another gear. He always does. He’s just a good horse. I’m very happy.”

Co-owner R. A. Hill went into the Fountain of Youth with confidence in Dornoch.

“I wasn’t that worried to be honest. We got lucky with the scratches, but I was pretty confident all along. I think this horse is the real deal,” Hill said. “He won today, Luis stood up about halfway down the stretch. We get the two scratches, which of course was lucky, but you got to run against who’s in the game. We’ll probably run in the Florida Derby or the Blue Grass. It’s up to Danny.”

Le Dom Bro, a son of Mucho Macho Man who had finished second in the seven-furlong Swale at Gulfstream Feb. 3 after finished ninth behind Dornoch in the Remsen, held second, a neck in front of Frankie’s Empire, the Swale winner who chased the top two throughout the race.

“I’m really happy. The horse ran good,” Le Dom Bro’s trainer Eniel Cordero said. “I talked to Edwin, and I said to get some position and then go. He’s a good horse. The more distance the better for him. I’ll talk to the owner and see what’s next. We have a good horse.”

Real Macho finished another 5 ¾ lengths back in fourth. Dancing Groom trailed the field throughout.

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