(Trainer Tom Amoss and regular rider James Graham have teamed up a lot at the Fair Grounds / Photo Courtesy of the Fair Grounds)
From the Fair Grounds Media Team:
By purses earned ($5.3 million), Tom Amoss enjoyed the third best season of his 33-year career in 2019, but according to the New Orleans native, numbers do not tell the entire story.
“The comments have always been, ‘he’s a very good trainer, but who has he developed into a major horse’,” Amoss said. “Winning the Kentucky Oaks with Serengeti Empress is helping to change that narrative, and that’s why 2019 was such a good year.”
“We had quite a few nice 2-year-old winners last year and we’ve got some unraced horses back there (Fair Grounds backstretch), that in the month of January, people will really enjoy watching,” Amoss continued. “The shift from ‘he’s a good claiming trainer’ to ‘he’s a good trainer’ is something that’s occurring right now. That encompasses a lot of people, not just me. I’m talking about the stable.”
Amoss is still very active in the claiming game. He claimed 53 horses in 2019, but 73 were taken from him. According to Amoss, the claiming business has “changed dramatically” in recent years.
“There was a time 10-15 years ago when I was actively claiming horses and either I got the one I was after or I lost a shake to one other person”, Amoss explained. “That’s not the case anymore. There are some super-sized stables out there now who are literally claiming four horses a day at a single track. Now, I’ve never been that guy. They’re losing horses on a regular basis and they need to claim to replace them. I actually enjoy being creative doing it, but the landscape the way it is, it is getting harder and harder just to rely on claiming.”
Whether the shift to developing younger horses has happened organically, out of necessity, or a combination of both, Amoss feels the Kentucky Oaks win with Serengeti Empress has helped take his game to a new level.
Purchased by Amoss at the Keeneland September sale for $70,000 on behalf of owner Joel Politi, the newly turned 4-year-old daughter of Alternation has had more ups than downs in her 12-race career, winning five times. In addition to the Kentucky Oaks (G1), she also won the Rachel Alexandra (G2) at Fair Grounds and as 2-year-old, the Pocahontas (G2) at Churchill. She was most recently seen finishing third behind Blue Prize and Midnight Bisou in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) at Santa Anita.
“I’m very proud of her third in the Breeders’ Cup,” Amoss said. “It took two very good older mares to pass her at the end of that race. She ran against the best all year long, and usually when you do that over and over again at some point, they say uncle.”
Following a well-deserved break from the track, Serengeti Empress recently returned to Amoss’ Fair Grounds base, and she is scheduled breeze for the first time since the Breeders’ Cup on Sunday morning.
“She’s a horse who gets herself ready quickly,” Amoss explained. “We have not picked out a spot yet, but look for her to be ready to run towards the end of January.”
Outside of the Breeders’ Cup, all of the starts Serengeti Empress has made have come against age restricted company. Amoss knows the waters are deeper, and despite the fact that she’s also run well in one-turn races, he plans on keeping her long against the best the distaff division has to offer.
“I was surprised to see that Midnight Bisou is coming back this year, I thought she’d go on to be a broodmare,” Amoss said. “Monomoy Girl is on the radar as a possible comeback horse this year as well. A lot of the 3-year-old fillies beat each other along the way last year. We are making the transition to her 4-year-old year, and there are still some very good older mares still around.”
Quotes > Notes
Serengeti Empress may be the unquestioned stable star in the Amoss barn, but there are several other names to pay attention to in the coming weeks and months.
Hoffman Family Racing and Steve Landry’s Beautiful Trauma – 3yo filly, in her first two-turn try in career start number five, won a first-level allowance race by 16 lengths over a sloppy track at Fair Grounds on December 21.
“She has always been a very good work horse but mistake prone, not always good about taking her proper leads, not very good out of the starting gate,” Amoss said. “A lot of things that she got better at with through time. I think this past race, she put it all together. I think the transition from sprint to route was very important for her. The sprints she was at a bit of a disadvantage not always breaking well. This particular race she broke very well and was able to use that speed to her advantage. The effort, despite the racetrack, was one we’ve been waiting to see. She’s a good racehorse.”
The Plan: The Fair Grounds 3-year-old filly program. According to Amoss, the Silverbulletday on January 18 is possible, but the Rachel Alexandra(G2) on February 15 is more likely.
Maggi Moss’ No Parole – 3yo Louisiana-bred colt, broke his maiden at first asking against state-bred company by 14 ¼ lengths over a fast track at Fair Grounds on December 15.
“Very good, talented young horse,” Amoss said. “Broke his maiden very impressively. He is a Louisiana-bred, so that gives us some other options. He deserves a chance to see how far he can go, not only in distance, but in ability. We’re not thinking just Louisiana-bred races with him. Stretching out is always a bit of we’ll see how he runs and I think that’s true of him, but I think he’s a brilliant sprinter.”
“Running in races like the Oaks and Derby, particularly winning the Oaks, it’s intoxicating, it makes you want more of those kinds of race, but you have to temper that and work with the education of your young horses,” Amoss continued. “Put the lure of the big races aside the best you can and sometimes the urge gets to be a little bit too strong. Fortunately, in the case of No Parole, Maggi Moss is the owner and she can temper her enthusiasm pretty well.”
“Louisiana-breds are becoming very competitive on a national scale,” Amoss explained. “We saw that with Minit to Stardom at Saratoga (winning the G2 Honorable Miss). In the past you bought a Louisiana-bred merely thinking about the (restricted) program, more now if you got a good Louisiana-bred, you can take them anywhere.”
The Plan: “I think we will handle him carefully and bring him along the right way. I wouldn’t want a stakes race to be his next start. If the track is in good shape, he will work on Friday (January 3).”
GMB Racing’s Lone Sailor – 5-year old gelding, earner of $1.2 million despite winning only two of 23 starts. Only win besides the maiden came in the 2018 Oklahoma Derby. On a nine-race losing streak, but just missed in the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds on December 21.
“He’s very good at picking up the pieces, but he’s not very good at finishing off the race to win.” Amoss said. “I’m reminded of that every day when I walk from the clubhouse down to the paddock to saddle my horse and I look to the left by the escalator and see a picture of him getting beat by a whisker in the Louisiana Derby. I’ve fought that commentary from people, but it’s looking more and more like he wants to run to horses, but then it becomes very difficult for him to pass that last one. I’ve tried blinkers a couple times and it was a disaster. I really thought he’d put it together during his 4-year-old year. He did fine. In the end, he’s a millionaire, and you can’t knock that. Tenacious was off a bit of a layoff off the bad race in South Korea, so it was good to see him get back on track. I thought he ran well.”
The Plan: Breezed a half mile on January 1. The Louisiana Stakes at Fair Grounds on January 18 is an option, but Amoss hasn’t committed to running in that spot.
Double Doors Racing, LLC and Nine Thirty Racing, LLC’s Chocolate Martini, winner of the 2018 Fair Grounds Oaks off the $25,000 claim sold at the Keeneland November ’19 Breeding Stock Sale for $435,000 to Andrew Williams Bloodstock out of Australia.