Horse Racing

Danny Gargan – 2024 Kentucky Derby Trainer Profile

FanDuel Staff
FanDuel Staff
Danny Gargan – 2024 Kentucky Derby Trainer Profile

Trainer Danny Gargan has only run a public stable since 2013, but was born into the sport: his father, also named Danny Gargan, rode Bag of Tunes to victory in the 1973 Kentucky Oaks (G1). Gargan was a jockey agent as well as an assistant to trainer Nick Zito before striking out on his own.

He has a reputation for being shrewd at the claim box. Perhaps the best-known is Tax, who he claimed for $50,000 out of a maiden race at Keeneland during his 2-year-old year. The Arch gelding went on to become a multiple graded stakes winner. He also trained Divine Miss Grey, a one-time claimer who went on to become a Grade 2 winner.

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Kentucky Derby Record

Danny Gargan is still looking for his first Grade 1 win. He has only started one horse in the Kentucky Derby. The aforementioned Tax, who earned his way to Churchill Downs by doing well on the Aqueduct spur of the Derby trail, placed 14th behind Country House in the Kentucky Derby in 2019. The Arch gelding finished fourth in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park five weeks later.

This will be the first time Gargan has horses in the Triple Crown series since Tax.

Dornoch

Dornoch, by Good Magic out of the stakes-winning Big Brown mare Puca, is a full brother to 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage. A $325,000 yearling, he is owned by West Paces Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, Belmar Racing and Breeding, Two Eight Racing, and Pine Racing. His regular rider, in the irons for all but one start so far, is Luis Saez.

Two-Year-Old Season

It took Dornoch three starts to graduate, but he has always raced against good company. He debuted with a second-place finish behind Seize the Grey in a seven-furlong maiden special weight sprint at Saratoga, and he then finished second behind Noted in the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth. He broke his maiden in his next start at Keeneland, jumping to the lead and drawing off to win by 6 ½ lengths in a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight.

Dornoch concluded his juvenile season in the Remsen Stakes (G2) at Aqueduct. He handled the muddy track well, battling on the pace. Even though he was headed midstretch, he continued to slug with Sierra Leone all the way to the wire and got his nose down on the wire first. Heading into the Kentucky Derby, he is still the only horse so far to beat Sierra Leone.

Three-Year-Old Season

Dornoch made his sophomore debut at Gulfstream Park in the Fountain of Youth (G2). The field was scratched down to five, and he took full advantage: he ran out to the lead, kept going, and won by 1 ¾ lengths in the end.

With a Derby spot virtually assured after the Fountain of Youth, Dornoch returned for his final prep, the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland. Gargan stated beforehand that he was in the race to learn how to rate. The experiment could have gone better: he tracked in range while racing keenly but emptied out in the lane, finishing fourth beaten six and a half lengths by Sierra Leone.

At this point, Dornoch’s best weapon is his early speed. Should all the speed actually make it out cleanly, it will be a fight that Dornoch may not win. But, if some of the speed—perhaps the inconsistent Fierceness—gets into early trouble and Dornoch doesn’t? The classic stamina in his pedigree could make him the horse to catch.

Society Man

Like stablemate Dornoch, Society Man is also by Good Magic. He is out of You Cheated, a Colonel John mare who was stakes-placed going a mile on the synthetic. An $85,000 yearling purchase, Society Man is owned by a partnership including West Paces Racing, GMP Stables, and Danny Gargan himself. Luis Rivera, Jr. is his regular rider.

Two-Year-Old Season

Society Man raced twice as a juvenile. He finished seventh on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight sprint last July at Saratoga. He did not resurface until December 8 at Aqueduct, when he stretched out to 1 ⅛ miles in another maiden special at Aqueduct. Sent off the second-longest shot of six, he chased on for a mild third behind Speed Runner and Malarchuk.

Three-Year-Old Season

Despite the fact that Society Man was still a maiden, Danny Gargan entered him for his sophomore debut in the Withers on February 3. He came up flat in the mud, finishing eighth of nine behind Uncle Heavy. After that, Gargan turned him back to a mile and dropped him back into maiden company. Despite some anxious activity behind the gate, Society Man responded well to the move. He settled back, rallied, and won by three lengths. That got him a ticket to the Wood Memorial (G2), where bettors ignored him at 106-1, but he ran on well through the lane to finish second, 2 ¼ lengths behind Resilience. That punched his ticket to Churchill Downs.

The New York spur of the Derby trail has not been the most live in recent years, and Society Man has yet to prove himself against the top competition he will see in Louisville, like Sierra Leone, Fierceness, or even stablemate Dornoch. He will be one of the longest shots in the field, and will need a serious step forward to be a factor.


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