(Trainer Tom Amoss / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Fair Grounds’ Media Team:
In a “been there, done that” kind of career, Tom Amoss has seen a lot of highs around the famed Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots oval. The New Orleans native and LSU graduate has won the local trainer’s title an amazing 11 times, to go with countless local stakes as well, and he was voted into the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame in 1998. But even for someone with Amoss’ gaudy resume, the recent tear he’s been on has been otherworldly, and it has him in contention for title number 12.
Amoss last won the Fair Grounds trainer’s title in 2014-15, and, after a 2-for-16 start to the meet, he didn’t figure to seriously threaten atop the standings as 2020 turned to 2021. The landscape changed in a hurry, however, as the New Orleans native is now in the midst of a wild 11-for-23 streak which began on December 18. Following his win in the Saturday finale with Defeater, his second of the day, Amoss snagged a tenuous one-win lead over four-time defending champion Brad Cox.
“Obviously, you have some hope going into the races, but racing luck can play a lot into the outcome of races,” Amoss said. “I think, in the end, as a trainer, you’d like to get rid of those peaks and valleys and kind of steady somewhere in between, but it doesn’t work like that. So, when the barn is clicking it’s just time to get out of the way. When it’s not going well—and it was not going well at the beginning of the meet—you have to do what you always do when you get in one of those kind of sour streaks; you’ve got to continue to do the job as you always would, enter, and not hit the panic button.”
My Boy Gus is the type of horse Amoss built his career on, and the type that helped him win 11 local titles, as he claimed the 3-year-old for $40,000 out of his debut at Churchill Downs and immediately won right back with him. But as time has moved on, so have the goals of a stable that grown by leaps and bounds. Amoss won Churchill’s Kentucky Oaks (G1) with Serengeti Empress in 2019 and last year’s Woody Stephens (G1) at Belmont Park with No Parole. After tasting success at racing’s highest level, there’s little wonder he wants more.
“We’re moving in a little bit of a different direction,” Amoss said. “Don’t get me wrong; claiming has always been our bread and butter and will continue to be so. But you get a taste of a horse you develop like Serengeti Empress and one trip to that winner’s circle on Kentucky Oaks Day and to that infield—a place where they don’t take any win pictures except the Derby and the Oaks—you get a taste of that and you want more.”
With a stable that now plays on the national scene, winning his 12th local title wasn’t on top of the “to do” list as 2021 dawned. Amoss looked back fondly on when he was in the midst of building his local Hall of Fame resume, then pondered how another plaque on the wall of the barn would feel.
“If you asked me that question—what would winning the Fair Grounds title mean—10-to-15 years ago, I would have told you it means a lot—because it did,” Amoss said. “Fair Grounds was our major emphasis in the winter and the bulk of our horses were down here. And it was a great motivator to our barn, which works so hard all meet. But a lot has changed since then and what kind of stable we have. If we win the training title it’s great, but it’s not going to have the meaning it once did. And I don’t mean to take anything away from something that would be an accomplishment for sure, but it’s not an emphasis.”
No Parole fits the profile of the new-age Amoss horse. Purchased for $75,000 as a yearling, he won on debut here in his lone start at 2 and then went on to much greater heights at 3. Last year, the newly minted 4-year-old Louisiana-bred son of Violence won the LA Bred Premier Night Prince Stakes at Delta Downs in February then tried Triple Crown hopefuls in Oaklawn’s Rebel (G2) a month later, where he was eighth. Amoss cut No Parole back and he won an optional-claimer there in April before winning the Stephens at Belmont to announce his presence as one of the top sophomore sprinters in the country. No Parole was ninth in the Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga in August and sixth in the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland in October before Amoss decided he needed a break. He’s worked twice since, including a 4-furlong move in a local 48.20 January 2, which has Amoss looking forward to a big 2021.
“He worked very well and showed he’s getting ready very quickly,” Amoss said. “It would not be surprising to see him in the entry box sometime at the end of January or the beginning of February. He was great for us as a 3-year-old. He won a grade 1 in New York but horses, specifically sprinters, it’s hard to keep them at the top of their game year-round. He tailed off, and that’s not unusual, so it was time to give him a rest and get him ready for his 4-year-old year.”
While No Parole set the bar mighty high winning a grade 1 last year, Amoss has a slew of young horses he’s looking forward to this year. He won with first-time starter Save here New Year’s Day and sent out the highly-regarded Defeater to win the Saturday finale. The 3-year—old son of Union Rags was a $210,000 yearling purchase and ran to that price tag when he ran down a heavily favored Godolphin blueblooded entry. Prior to the race Amoss wasn’t sure Defeater would win on debut, which only speaks to his talent, and his future.
“Defeater is a very, very nice colt but he comes with some difficulties for a trainer,” Amoss said. “He’s not a precocious gate horse. Any of the young horses that are coming up like him, these are developing young horses and no matter how hard you try, you can’t rush that development because a lot of that is getting physically bigger and stronger, as well as mentally understanding the racing. But make no mistake about it, Defeater is a runner.”
And Amoss, is a winner.