Tom Amoss Joins TDN Writers’ Room to Talk No Parole, Serengeti Empress, Racing Broadcasts and More

By Joe Bianca

With a newly-minted Grade I winner in his barn and another set to hit the track this weekend, trainer Tom Amoss joined the TDN Writers’ Room podcast presented by Keeneland Wednesday morning for an illuminating discussion that covered a wide variety of topics, big and small. Calling in via Zoom as the Green Group Guest of the Week, Amoss explained the success of barn stars No Parole (Violence) and Serengeti Empress (Alternation), talked about what he’s learned from branching out into broadcasting and offered his take on why racing has a difficult time catching cheating trainers.

“When No Parole was first making his debut against state-bred company at the Fair Grounds, I recall vividly calling [owner] Maggi Moss and telling her, ‘Hey, this isn’t just a good Louisiana-bred sprinter, this is a very good racehorse,’” Amoss said. “He’s now a Grade I winner, he’s undefeated going one turn in four starts. In the back of our minds, if the horse stays healthy and does good, when he gets to the end of his 3-year-old year, where his maturity level will catch up to the older horses, the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is a possibility. And of course, we think he’d make a heck of a stallion. He’s gorgeous, good looking. He just won an important stallion race [Saturday’s GI Woody Stephens S.]. So we’ve got that on our mind as well.”

 

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Cut Back To Seven Furlongs, No Parole Takes Them All The Way In Woody Stephens (G1)

by | 06.20.2020

Maggi Moss and Greg Tramontin’s Louisiana-bred 3-year-old No Parole absolutely dominated state-bred competition in his first three starts, leading to Triple Crown hopes for the son of Violence. A failed experiment in the G2 Rebel quickly convinced trainer Tom Amoss that the colt preferred shorter distances, and No Parole rebounded with a six-furlong allowance score at Oaklawn in his next start.

That victory convinced Amoss to try sprinting the colt against Grade 1 company, and this time the experiment was successful. On Saturday, No Parole led the field from gate-to-wire to win the G1 Woody Stephens Stakes at Belmont Park, completing seven furlongs over the fast main track in 1:21.41. Ridden by Luis Saez, the 3-1 chance No Parole defeated runner-up Echo Town by 3 3/4 lengths.

 

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No Parole Sprints to Victory in Oaklawn Allowance

Son of Violence rebounded from eighth in March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2).

 

The decision to return No Parole to shorter distances proved to be a good one for owners Maggi Moss and Greg Tramontin as the son of Violence  aired in a $61,000 allowance optional claiming race going six furlongs April 24 at Oaklawn Park.

Seeking to rebound from an eighth in the March 14 Rebel Stakes (G2) over a 1 1/16-mile trip, the Tom Amoss trainee was sent off as the even-money favorite in a field of 10 3-year-olds. He ran to his odds under Joe Talamo, finishing under wraps in a final time of 1:09.34 on a fast track.

 

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Amoss to Self-Quarantine After Interaction With Payton

Trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time.”

Trainer Tom Amoss tweeted March 19 that he would self-quarantine for 14 days after learning that New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton—who was in the winner’s circle with him at Oaklawn Park March 14—tested positive for COVID-19. The trainer added in his tweet that he “will be tested at the earliest possible time” but feels great and has no symptoms.

Amoss, whose primary winter training base is Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans, was at Oaklawn in Hot Springs, Ark., to watch Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress win the March 14 Azeri Stakes (G2) by 6 1/4 lengths under Joe Talamo. Fair Grounds and Oaklawn raced last week, mostly without spectators.

 

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Amoss Shifting Focus From Claiming Game To Young Horses

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.”

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Amoss Gives Public Insider’s View of Kentucky Oaks Winner Serengeti Empress

Even as he watched a race unfold that would lead to the biggest victory of his 30-plus-year training career, Tom Amoss’ attention turned to a more important matter..

Amoss, who saddled Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress to victory in the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) May 3 at Churchill Downs, took his eye off his frontrunning filly early in the 1 1/8-mile race at Churchill Downs to check on the health of Positive Spirit and her jockey, Manuel Franco, after the pair fell a few steps out of the gate when they clipped heels with Jaywalk.

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Garcia, Amoss Dead Heat for Leading Trainer at Indiana

Trainers Tom Amoss and Genaro Garcia concluded Indiana Grand’s 120-day run Nov. 7 with 45 wins a piece, sharing the title of co-leading trainers of the 2018 season. Garcia earned his second straight title at Indiana Grand, also picking up the honor in 2017. A native of Mexico, Garcia had 297 starters and maintained a 41 percent in the money average. Horses from the Garcia Stable earned in excess of $905,580.

“I’m really happy to have won the title this year and I want to say thank you to the owners and Indiana Grand,” said Garcia. “All of my two-year-olds did really well this year, and I was so glad to see that. It was exciting to see how they went through the whole process from breaking them to seeing them get to the track and race so well this year.”

Joining Garcia atop the trainer standings is Amoss, who picked up his sixth leading trainer title in the past eight years. A native of Louisiana, Amoss won titles from 2011-2014 and was back on top of the standings in 2016. Horses from his barn in 2018 were tough, winning 45 of 136 starts for a 33 percent win average and a 61 percent top three average.

“Winning a title is an honor for the stable and a reflection on all the people who work with us, especially the owners who entrust us with their horses,” said Amoss. “I’m not there as often as I’d like, but every time I go, the casual fans are so nice and enthusiastic. Indiana Grand is always a breath of fresh air when I visit.”

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FAIR GROUNDS HORSEMEN REMEMBER LATE VAN BERG

Following the recent passing of Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, several horsemen at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots have shared stories of the conditioner and how he has influenced their training careers.

A native of Columbus, Nebraska, Van Berg is the all-time leading trainer at the Fair Grounds having won ten training titles at the New Orleans oval, which include six consecutive leading seasons from 1965-71. In addition, he also holds the record for most victories during a single season at the Fair Grounds when he won 92 races during the Winter Meet in 1973-74. In 1985, Van Berg was inducted into the National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame and six years later in 1991, was inducted in Fair Grounds’ Hall of Fame.

Trainer Tom Amoss was a product of the Van Berg barn and began working for him in high school when he hot walked for Van Berg during Christmas break one year. Coincidentally, Van Berg was stabled in Barn 12 on the Fair Grounds backside, where Amoss is currently operates.

“I worked for him in high school right here in this very barn,” Amoss recalled. “It was my first job on the racetrack as a hot walker and it was about 1977 or 1978. Even then I had hopes of being a trainer one day and I always had a notebook with different things that I observed and wanted to stay with me for when I got to be a trainer. One thing that I learned from Van Berg that I still use today is his feed program. In today’s world, a lot of trainers give the horses premixed feed and that’s what they do. A vast majority of them do that, but we don’t. We have a recipe that we use that involves a lot of different products and I can’t tell you how often I get compliments about how great our horses look in the paddock. That is a direct tribute to the Van Berg feeding program.

“He instilled the importance of hard work and being at the barn,” Amoss added. “I don’t just mean in the mornings, but in the afternoons as well. It’s those things that always stuck with me. There are guys that can do it without being at the barn as much as I am, but for me it works if I am around as much as possible, and that’s the Van Berg way of doing things.”

Amoss continued to work for Van Berg during his college years and assisted the trainer’s Fair Grounds division which was supervised by trainer Frank Brothers, Van Berg’s assistant at the time.

“Van Berg was one of the first to have different operations spread throughout the country,” Amoss said. “You see that a lot with today’s trainers, but not back then. I went to work for Frank Brothers who was his assistant trainer and managed the Louisiana division of horses, so I didn’t get to see Jack that much and remarkably he remembered me. I don’t know how much of that is him trying to appease me when I say hello to him or if he actually does remember me but I’ll say this, he had a great memory. I’d like to think it was the latter.”

Van Berg also was responsible for getting trainer Wayne Catalano involved in the racing industry. Catalano often rode for Van Berg as a jockey prior to becoming a trainer.

“Jack Van Berg was a big part of my career and my life,” Catalano said. “Growing up, I was a young boy here in New Orleans and not doing so well in school. My uncle took me to the track and said, ‘You’re small enough if you want to be a jockey’. I didn’t know anything about the racetrack so he brought me and my brother to Jack Van Berg. I came here to the racetrack not knowing anything about the races or about the track or the backside or anything like that, but Jack really taught me a lot. I started working for Jack up in Chicago when I turned 16 and he taught me all about the horses and horsemanship.

“If it weren’t for Jack, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in right now in my life,” Catalano added. “He got me here. He’s very well missed and the horsemanship that he taught me brought me a long ways. He made you work hard and he was very strict but he was the kind of guy that would teach you and show you. He always helped everybody come along. He gave me a jump start in my riding career and later on when I was done riding and I started training he gave me another jump start there and even gave me a couple of his own horses. One year, he was short of an assistant at Keeneland go I just kind of filled in when I was galloping horses for him. It was toward the end of my (riding) career when I was trying to become a trainer so I was focusing on that.”

While trainer Al Stall, Jr. did not work directly for Van Berg, he was a friend of his and was stabled next to him during his final years at Churchill Downs.

“I knew him personally and I was stabled right next to him during his last couple of years over at Churchill,” Stall said. “Whenever he would be out watching his horses work on his scooter or when he was inside his truck on the backside, you would always see four or five people surrounding him. It was like he had his own little entourage.”

Stall shared a story of Van Berg taking him to airport following a race at Arlington Park.

“I remember he would take us to the airport sometimes when we had horses shipping,” Stall recalled. “One time leaving Arlington Park we were in a rush to catch a plane and I had never been so scared in my life, he was driving like a maniac. When we stopped at a toll booth the brakes were smoking, but we made our flight in time.”

In addition to his numerous accomplishments at the Fair Grounds, Van Berg was a nine-time leading trainer in North America by wins and the leading trainer by earnings in 1976. He won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Trainer in 1984, the same year he trained Gate Dancer to a victory in the Preakness Stakes. His most well-known runner was 1987 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Alysheba who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and was named Horse of the Year the following year. This year, Van Berg enjoyed his most successful season in 20 years this year with 42 victories and $1,223,503 in earnings. He will be missed by many horsemen at racetracks all across North America.

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Louisiana Bred, Louisiana Sired Big World Wins G1 La Troienne

La Troienne02.5-5-17.Barbara Livingston
Louisiana bred, Big World (Custom For Carlos-Tensas Wedding Joy) wins the G1 La Troienne Stakes at Churchill Downs, May 5, 2017. Barbara Livingston photo.

Louisiana’s 2016 3YO Champion filly, Big World (Custom For Carlos-Tensas Wedding Joy), won the prestigious  $300,000  La Troienne Stakes Presented by Spirited Funds (G1) at Churchill Downs May 5.

The Tom Amoss-trained Big World showcased her improving ability and mettle. The Maggi Moss colorbearer carved out early fractions of :23.75 and :48.28 and kept on finding more, refusing to let Romantic Vision by in the stretch. She captured the 1 1/16-mile test by 1 1/4 lengths on the undercard of the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).

Amoss says of the win, “I classify Big World’s win in the G1 La Troienne as one of the biggest thrills of my training career and believe I can speak for Maggie [Moss] when I say it was one of her biggest thrills in racing.”

He goes onto say “I credit the Louisiana Bred racing program and how Big World was able to build confidence through the winter before having to face Grade 1 competition.”

Under her previous trainer, Tony Dutrow, Big World hinted at what she was capable of, most notably when she captured the 2015 edition of the Tempted Stakes (G3) in her fourth start. Since being transferred to Amoss by owner Maggie Moss last year, the solidly built filly quietly racked up three wins on the Louisiana circuit and headed into the La Troienne off a win in a 1 1/16 mile allowance race at Oaklawn Park March 30.

Bred in Louisiana by Curt Leake and Elm Tree Farm (Michelle and Jody Huckabay), Big World became the first grade 1 winner for her sire, who stands at Clear Creek Stud. She improved her record to seven wins from 11 starts with $608,820 in earnings.

Big World is the first Louisiana-bred G1 winner since Happy Ticket (Anet) won the 2005 G1 Ballerina Stakes.

Custom For Carlos is the first Louisiana stallion to sire a G1 winner in over 25 years. Free Spirit’s Joy (Joey Bob) won the 1991 Super Derby at Louisiana Downs, which at the time was a million dollar G1 Stakes.

To read more:

http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/221431/big-world-delivers-in-la-troienne

http://www.thoroughbreddailynews.com/custom-for-carlos-filly-steals-la-troienne/#.WRCTmirBAUw.email

http://www.drf.com/news/big-world-goes-all-way-la-troienne

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