Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
In only a third of a century, the Super Derby has developed a rich and proud history. Many of the finest three-year-olds in American racing have ventured down to compete in the key end-of-summer event. Because of this, I was honored when asked to write the Super Derby notes and articles for Harrah’s Louisiana Downs this week.
This morning, I had the opportunity to talk with Al Stall, Jr., who trains one of my favorite horses in training, Departing, about his young star, comparisons to Blame, and the New Orleans’ native’s connection to the Super Derby. More on Departing in the coming days, here is today’s story on All Stall and the Super Derby ...
Al Stall, Jr. is no stranger to winning big races, most notably having won the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic with Blame in a memorable battle over the then-undefeated Zenyatta. Before that win on the biggest of stages, Stall has enjoyed plenty of other important victories. From Joyeux Danseur in the late nineties, to local hero, Star Guitar, Stall has become a familiar face to racing fans around the country. Perhaps no race has treated the trainer better than the Super Derby, though.
When the Louisiana native saddles the even money, morning line favorite, Departing, for the 34th edition of the Super Derby, it will mark the sixth consecutive year that Stall runs a horse in the Super Derby at Harrah’s Louisiana Downs. His career in the race got off to a very good start. In 2008, My Pal Charlie represented not only his first Super Derby runner, but the B. Wayne Hughes owned colt also became his first winner in the important three-year-old race.
“We’ve won two already, so success helps you want to come back. First My Pal Charlie and then Apart won here. I have good memories.” said Stall. “Plus I’m from Louisiana. I have a string here. It’s a natural fit.”
While his best horse to date, Blame, finished second in 2009, as Stall’s second starter in the Super Derby, the 51-year-old conditioner came right back the following year with the 2010 winner, Apart. After a pair of long shots, Trubs and Tensas Cold Front, failed to make a big dent in this race the past two years for Stall, he comes back on Saturday with a big chance, in Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing, who has already accounted for the Illinois and West Virginia Derbies in impressive fashion this year. While Stall clearly enjoys competing in the Super Derby, it is still all about the horse.
“I’ve been watching this race for as long as its been run, but the horse comes first. This race has just fit our schedule well,” explained Stall. “We have been lucky enough to have horses doing well this time of year.”
Stall also appreciates the scheduling of Harrah’s Louisiana Downs’ signature event, as he considers the next possible race for his current stable star.
“The Super Derby gives us the option of running in [the] Oklahoma [Derby] or Indiana [Derby] after this. Those are the last races for three-year-olds. The Pennsylvania Derby is for a million, but it takes those other races off the table.”
Stall is taking it one race at a time, though, and if Departing can do what a majority of bettors will expect him to do on Saturday, he will become the first trainer to win the Super Derby three times. Currently, he stands in a four-way tie with an esteemed group that includes D. Wayne Lukas, Jack Van Berg, and Wally Dollase, at two wins apiece.