where the horse is always the hero
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Posted 2024-06-09 07:04:45  

There are moments when horse racing turns distant dreams into reality. Trainer Danny Gargan, who grew up in the racing industry as the son of a jockey who rode Pvt. Smiles against the legendary Secretariat in the 1973 Belmont Stakes (G1), is proof of this. Gargan worked with Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito and, starting in 2013, worked tirelessly to assemble a small stable. He often wondered if he would ever feel the electrifying thrill of success at the sport's pinnacle. It took 11 years, but on a historic day when the Belmont Stakes was held at Saratoga Race Course for the first time, Gargan joined the ranks of classic winners. His horse, Dornoch, triumphed in a thrilling race, holding off a late challenge from Mindframe to win by a half-length in the $2 million final jewel of the Triple Crown for 3-year-olds.

"You never think you're going to be a kid from the south end of Louisville who wins this kind of race," Gargan said. "Anybody who can win a Triple Crown race from where I grew up has to work their whole life to do it." Joining the list of classic winners on that dream-filled June 8th were the ownership group of West Paces Racing, Randy Hill's R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Pine Racing Stables, and Two Eight Racing, owned by former Major League Baseball All-Star and World Series champion Jayson Werth.

"I'll put it up there with anything I've ever done," Werth said. "Horse racing is the most underrated sport there is. This is as big as it gets. It's the same emotions you feel when you play a playoff game, when you win a World Series game, and arguably when you win a World Series. We need to get more retired athletes into this game. Danny, what's your phone number?"

For Hill, who has owned about 300 horses since entering the sport 25 years ago, the victory fulfilled a long-held ambition to be part of a classic win. 

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