Dalmore Could Post Mild Upset in Super Derby

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

The Del Mar and Saratoga meets might be behind us, but the great racing action of the summer continues on Saturday with a variety of intriguing stakes races, including the $400,000 Super Derby (gr. III) at Louisiana Downs, a race that has been won in the past by such famous horses as Alysheba, Sunday Silence, and Tiznow.

#Horse (Odds)
JockeyTrainerLast race
1Whateverybodywants (6-1)Jose Valdivia, Jr.Kellyn Gorder2nd West Virginia Derby (gr. II) (VIDEO)
2Mo Tom (7-5)Joe BravoTom Amoss1st Ohio Derby (VIDEO)
3Mending Fences (15-1)
David CabreraDanny Pish3rd Super Derby Prelude Stakes (VIDEO)
4Classy Bird (20-1)
John JacintoLonnie Briley5th Super Derby Prelude Stakes (VIDEO)
5Texas Chrome (7-2)
C. J. McMahonJ. R. Caldwell1st Super Derby Prelude Stakes (VIDEO)
6Dalmore (2-1)
Kent DesormeauxKeith Desormeaux5th Pacific Classic (gr. I) (VIDEO)
7Fort Pulaski (20-1)
Diego SaenzDanny Pish7th Super Derby Prelude Stakes (VIDEO)

The heavy favorite on the morning line at 7-5 is Mo Tom, a son of Uncle Mo that has stamped himself as among the better three-year-old colts in the country. After troubled trips contributed to him finishing third in the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and fourth in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), he finished a solid eighth in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) despite yet another tough trip, then finally got a clean run in the Ohio Derby and unleashed a big late rally to win by three decisive lengths.

You have to admire a colt that just keeps rallying under any circumstances, but I think Mo Tom could be vulnerable to an upset in the Super Derby. Since the Ohio Derby, he's targeted a couple of major stakes races and was even entered in the West Virginia Derby (gr. II), but scratched because he wasn't training very well at Saratoga. Mo Tom has been based at Churchill Downs for his last two workouts, which have been sharper, but I wonder if he might need to get a race under his belt before returning to peak form.

In addition, the field that Mo Tom beat in the Ohio Derby wasn't the toughest-runner-up Adventist returned to finish seventh in the West Virginia Derby, third-place finisher Discreet Lover finished eighth in the Indiana Derby (gr. II) and Smarty Jones Stakes (gr. III), and fourth-place finisher Cocked and Loaded finished seventh in the Indiana Derby and fifth in the Smarty Jones. Of course, the Super Derby field doesn't appear to be the toughest either, and it would be a major surprise if Mo Tom doesn't finish in the trifecta, but at anywhere near his 7-5 morning line odds, I think he's a horse to play against.

With all that said, my selection to win is Dalmore. Although he lost his first six starts before breaking his maiden at Santa Anita, Dalmore has since stamped himself as a very talented colt, winning an allowance race and the Affirmed Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita before finishing fifth in the Pacific Classic (gr. I) behind-get ready!-2014 Horse of the Year and all-time leading North American money winner California Chrome, three-time Eclipse champion and two-time Breeders' Cup winner Beholder, and the grade I winners Dortmund and Hoppertunity. Never mind Dalmore's 16 ¾-length defeat-he was facing four of the very best older horses in the country and performed admirably under the circumstances. He even finished ahead of the talented graded stakes winners Imperative and Hard Aces.

Basically, Dalmore is taking a tremendous class drop from the Pacific Classic to the Super Derby, a drop that doesn't even begin to be reflected by the grades of the races. I was impressed that Dalmore ran as well as he did in the Pacific Classic, and I think he's ready for a winning effort while cutting back in distance to nine furlongs and facing his own age group in the Super Derby. He also has more tactical speed than Mo Tom and could be forwardly placed in a race that lacks speed on paper, and as a result, I view Dalmore as the horse to beat.

Respect must also be given to Texas Chrome, winner of the Super Derby Prelude Stakes at Louisiana Downs on August 6th. The Prelude has enjoyed solid success producing Super Derby contenders, and Texas Chrome previously demonstrated his talent by finishing second in the Iowa Derby (gr. III) behind American Freedom and third in the Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) behind Gun Runner, talented colts that returned to finish second and third in the Travers Stakes (gr. I). Texas Chrome is unlikely to receive anywhere near as much wagering support as Dalmore and Mo Tom, but I think he's a solid contender in this race and has a big chance to split the favorites and finish in the exacta.

For a live longshot, I would consider Classy Bird, who is 20-1 on the morning line after finishing fifth in the Prelude Stakes. At first glance, his performance doesn't look very good, but Classy Bird really had no chance of winning while trailing the field through fractions of :25.15 and :48.86, a slow pace that strongly favored the early leaders and allowed them to fly home the final five-sixteenths of a mile in a quick :30.85 seconds. Prior to the Prelude Stakes, Classy Bird had never finished out of the trifecta on dirt and had won the Crescent City Derby when a much more favorable pace flow aided his late run. Classy Bird might be in a little deep against Dalmore and Mo Tom, but he will be ridden by John Jacinto-by far the leading rider at the current Louisiana Downs meet-and might have a shot to finish in the exotics if the pace ends up more contested than expected.

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Super Derby?

Other Races to Watch

Racing returns to Belmont Park on Friday with a competitive nine-race card that includes the $100,000 Christiecat Stakes for three-year-old fillies. One race I'm particularly excited to see is a one-mile allowance optional claiming event that is the third race on the card; four of the five horses entered are stakes winners, including 2015 Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III) winner Ocean Knight, who makes his second start off a layoff following an encouraging second-place finish at Saratoga on August 8th.

The Saturday card is also solid and includes the Seattle Slew Stakes, an 8.5-furlong prep for the October 1st Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I). Once again, there are only five starters, but one of them is Comfort, runner-up to Frosted in the Whitney Stakes (gr. I) despite a slow start that left him farther off the pace than expected. I believe Comfort is a talented colt that will be a major player in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, and I'm looking forward to seeing how he runs in the Seattle Slew.

Lastly, I'm excited to see Da Big Hoss in the $600,000 Kentucky Turf Cup (gr. III) on Saturday at Kentucky Downs. Da Big Hoss is one of my favorite horses in training and has rapidly risen from a former claimer to one of the best long-distance turf horses in the United States. He won the Kentucky Turf Cup last year and has won four of his five starts this year, all of them stakes races. A repeat win in the Kentucky Turf Cup could potentially propel him to a start in Australia's legendary Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) in November, so I'll certainly be cheering for Da Big Hoss, who looks like a clear-cut favorite to win on Saturday.


To help simplify the process of choosing and keeping track of everyone's prime horse selections in our 2016 Road to the Breeders' Cup Classic Handicapping Challenge, I would like to ask everyone to please submit their prime choice each week by leaving a special comment on the official blog page for the contest. This will greatly reduce the chances of any prime horse selections getting overlooked, and will also make it simpler to double-check the standings. Thanks, and enjoy the racing!


J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.

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