SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Mindframe entered the 156th Belmont Stakes as a colt with scintillating potential, winning his first two races by a combined 21 1/4 lengths.

But neither of them was in stakes company, and here he was making the leap to the last race of the Triple Crown series for trainer Todd Pletcher, running the longest distance of his career.

And, though he didn’t know it, the 3-year-old son of Constitution by Walk of Stars was carrying the flag for Maryland. Entering Saturday, 1983 Belmont winner Caveat was the last horse born in the state to win any of the races that make up the Triple Crown, the most famous series in American thoroughbred racing.

Mindframe fell just short of breaking the 41-year winless streak Saturday, finishing second in a field that included Kentucky Derby winner Mysitk Dan, Derby runner-up Sierra Leone, Preakness winner Seize the Grey and six other runners at historic Saratoga Race Course.

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Dornoch, unraced since the Kentucky Derby, finished first by half a length at odds of 17-1.

Bettors seemed to doubt Mindframe due to his short résumé, his odds going up from 7-2 to 5-1.

Mindframe broke from post No. 10 and was bumped by the stumbling 8-5 favorite Sierra Leone, who then bumped the No. 8 Honor Marie. But the Maryland-bred got toward the front of the pack without issue.

On a dirt track that favored early speed throughout the day, Preakness winner Seize the Grey grabbed an early lead heading into the clubhouse turn, trailed by Dornoch and Mindframe.

The trio kept that order into the backstretch, with Seize the Grey and Dornoch separating themselves from the rest of the field entering the far turn.

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It was on the turn where Dornoch got a head out in front and jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. asked Mindframe to go. In the stretch run, Seize the Grey tired and was soon passed, effectively making this a two-horse race.

Mindframe briefly had a head in front near the 3/16ths pole, but Dornoch regained the lead as he came down the lane along the rail.

Traveling down the center of the course, Mindframe appeared to drift outside late when Ortiz used the crop with his left hand, prompting the jockey to switch to his right hand to urge his mount for another bid. The Maryland-bred surged forward toward his foe but couldn’t get there in time.

Pletcher said Ortiz told him the colt briefly lost focus during the stretch run.

“If he could have run a straight course down the lane, that would have been the difference,” Pletcher said.

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Late-running closer Sierra Leone got up for third place but never threatened the lead in this 1 1/4-mile edition of the Belmont. The final time was 2:01.64.

The race was moved to Saratoga while Belmont Park undergoes a $455 million renovation, leading the New York Racing Association to conduct the race at a shorter distance. Had it been run at its traditional 1 1/2 miles, there might have been a different outcome.

Fans and handicappers will have weeks to debate it. But the result will be there in black and white. Dornoch crossed the line first, and the Maryland breeding industry will have to look for its next Triple Crown hopeful in 2025.

Luis Saez and Dornoch defeated Mindframe and Irad Ortiz Jr. in a 1 1/4-mile Belmont. That is shorter than the traditional race because it was held at Saratoga Race Course while Belmont Park undergoes renovation. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Mindframe was bred by R. Larry Johnson of Virginia but foaled in May 2021 at the Eastern Shore farm of veterinarian Dr. Thomas Bowman and his wife, Chris, prolific breeders in their own right. Because Johnson continued to keep breeding stock in Maryland, he was able to register his foal as a Maryland-bred.

Johnson has bred and owned Maryland horses for years, and from 2017 to 2023 he’s been one of the most successful breeders in the state. During that stretch, he has led the state each year in bonus money from the Maryland Fund, a program to boost the industry in the state by offering rewards for locally bred horses that finish first, second or third in certain in-state races.

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One of his homebreds, the 4-year-old filly Future Is Now, won the Grade 2 Intercontinental Stakes here Friday.

Seeing the value fetched by other horses sired by Constitution, Johnson consigned the horse to the Keeneland Association September Yearling Sale 2022. Mike Repole (co-founder of beverage brand Glaceau) and Vincent Viola (founder of Virtu Financial) put in the winning bid of $600,000.

Even before Saturday’s race, breeding a Belmont runner was its own reward, an accomplishment people outside the world of racing can grasp.

“I‘ve been fortunate to raise some pretty good horses but nothing that got to this level,” he said in the lead-up to the Belmont.

His work was reflected most in the lineage of Mindframe’s dam, Walk of Stars, who can be traced all the way back to one of the first fillies he purchased, Ran’s Chick. She was injured and never raced, and Johnson said she didn’t really have a pedigree.

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Nevertheless, he decided to use her as a broodmare because he didn’t know any better, he said, and it’s paid off with 40 stakes-quality relatives.

Reached by phone, Johnson said he thought Mindframe would win at the top of the stretch. So did all the screaming attendees at his watch party.

“It looked like he was going to go by those horses and get in front,” he said. “And then, when Ortiz hit him left-handed, he ducked out seven or eight paths and lost momentum and still came back and got close.

“I think it’s just misfortune and inexperience,” he continued. “I think he reacted to being hit left-handed and it cost him the race. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he wins the race if he doesn’t do that.”

Johnson said he believes Mindframe is just getting started. There are still a number of important races coming up in the summer, including the Travers Stakes at Saratoga.

“I would think he’d be very, very tough to beat with the experience he’s now got and what he showed today,” he said. “I mean, to go farther than he’s ever gone, against horses that are much more experienced and accomplished, and to frankly run a great race, I think, shows how talented he really is.”

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