06/23/2016 2:36PM

Mo Tom tries to avoid trouble in Ohio Derby

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mo Tom will get a rider switch to Javier Castellano for the 1 1/8-mile Ohio Derby.

Mo Tom has gotten into mo’ traffic this year than a Manhattan cabbie. “Checked sharply” reads the chart for the Risen Star Stakes, “checked badly” for the Louisiana Derby, and “steadied” for the Kentucky Derby. Get Mo Tom a clear run Saturday in the $500,000 Ohio Derby at Thistledown, and he can mow down nine rivals for an overdue second victory this season.

Mo Tom is the only Ohio Derby runner coming out of the Kentucky Derby, and while he might not have been at his sharpest that day, he finished decently for eighth of 20 after finding trouble.

“He’s training well, and he’ll get the right kind of setup,” said Tom Amoss, who trains Mo Tom for Gayle Benson’s GMB Racing. “There’s speed, and it’s an attractive race on paper.”

Mo Tom showed ample ability at 2, finishing third in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in his 2015 finale, and began his 3-year-old campaign at Fair Grounds with an eye-catching win in the Lecomte Stakes. In the Risen Star, Mo Tom appeared to be rallying to victory when a tiring horse took a wandering course and nearly knocked Mo Tom into the rail in midstretch, and the Louisiana Derby produced another tale of woe, as jockey Corey Lanerie – who gives way Saturday to Javier Castellano – imprudently steered inside when Mo Tom was full of run again in the homestretch, getting completely stopped before Mo Tom picked himself up and finished strongly for a close fourth.

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At worst, Mo Tom would have been second that day, and he might have caught the victorious Gun Runner, who proved his merit with a brave third in the Kentucky Derby. Gun Runner is one of four Derby runners who have returned to win graded stakes, and Destin and Lani, two more Derby also-rans, were second and third in the Belmont Stakes.

“A lot of years the Derby horses all tend to fall by the wayside, but this time a lot of them have continued to run, and they’ve shown they’re a superior group,” Amoss said.

Wild About Deb has the best chance to beat Mo Tom. He debuted in a sprint with a second to the talented Uncle Lino, then easily won an off-the-turf maiden race at Santa Anita and was a wide third in the Grade 2 Peter Pan. The Peter Pan runner-up, Governor Malibu, came back to finish a troubled fourth in the Belmont Stakes.

“I thought the Peter Pan proved his class potential,” said trainer Phil D’Amato. “He was wide the whole way and galloped out really well. It was good progression from his previous race, and in the mornings he’s moved forward since then. He trains like an improving horse.”

Wild About Deb was seventh halfway through the one-turn Peter Pan but can stick closer to the leaders Saturday in a race that includes the fourth- and fifth-place Peter Pan finishers, Adventist and Decorated Soldier. Adventist, who races with blinkers off, has run well enough in all five of his starts, but he appears to lack Wild About Deb’s upside.

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The Todd Pletcher-trained Decorated Soldier won the Northern Spur at Oaklawn over lesser and should leave the gate running for position from post 10. He figures to be near the front end, as does Cocked and Loaded, who comes off two disappointing showings in shorter races, and the Ohio-bred stretch-out sprinter Mo Dont No.

Thelookonyerface, the Marine Stakes winner at Woodbine last out, makes his dirt debut. Van Damme, Discreet Lover, and Riding in the Wind complete the field.

Post time for the race, the eighth, is 5:30 p.m. Eastern. The weather forecast calls for sun and a high of 85 degrees.

The Ohio Derby is the last leg of the pick five and the late pick four. Thistledown announced late this week that takeout for both bets had been lowered from 22.5 percent to 15 percent for the rest of the meet.

◗ The $75,000 J. William Petro Memorial Handicap, a 1 1/16-mile dirt race for Ohio-bred fillies and mares, immediately precedes the Ohio Derby, while a 50-cent pick four starts on race 5 and ends on the Derby.