Home of the Louisiana Derby

BARN NOTES: January 13, 2016

  • ·         Mo Tom A Work in Progress for Amoss
  • ·         Noble Thought Out of Lecomte
  • ·         Battle Tap Opts for Allowance over Lecomte
  • ·         Harlan Punch Ready for 3-Year-Old Bow



Trainer Tom Amoss knows how to win a race or two at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, but the 11-time meet champion also knows when to place his focus on the long game when it comes to developing his stock. One horse who seems to fit that profile to the proverbial ‘T’ is G M B Racing’s Mo Tom, whom Amoss trains for Gayle Benson, the wife of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Mo Tom may appear to be the most accomplished horse in Saturday’s Grade III $200,000 TwinSpires.com Lecomte Stakes, but what he has yet to achieve is what is exciting Amoss.

A thin son of 2015’s top freshman sire Uncle Mo with an impressive turn of foot and stride, Mo Tom has progressed with each of his four efforts. In his debut, going six furlongs at Ellis Park in on Sept. 5, the dark bay colt closed from the back of the pack to win by a neck. Five weeks later on Oct. 8 in allowance company at Keeneland he lost to next-out restricted stakes winner Richie the Bull when third by 2¼ lengths. In his third effort, he showed a nice kick when taking the $81,000 Street Sense over fellow Lecomte entrants Tom’s Ready – also owned by the Bensons – and Pinnacle Peak. Then last out, in graded stakes debut, he was arguably the most impressive of any horse when finishing a game third behind Breeders’ Cup-placed Airoforce and next-out Grade I winner Mor Spirit in the Grade II $200,000 Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 28.

Mo Tom displayed a willingness to overcome adversity in his last race that caught the eyes of many, as he gobbled up ground on the rail over a sealed and sloppy course under regular rider Corey Lanerie. It was yet another move forward in a quartet of tries that have seen him move forward on the Beyer Speed Figure scale with each race: 48 – 65 – 80 – 85.

On Saturday, in his sophomore debut, Mo Tom will try to move forward yet again for his connections and – while a win is preferable – what they wish to see is an advance toward the bigger and better goals of the Grade II $1,000,000 TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby on Mar. 26 and, of course, the Grade I $2,000,000 Kentucky Derby on May 7. Mo Tom finished up his preparation for his 3-year-old bow with two consecutive impressive five-furlong moves – a bullet on Jan. 4 in 1:00.20 and a third-best of 33 on Monday, Jan. 11, in 1:01 flat.

“He’s doing well,” Amoss said. “He had his last breeze on Monday and it went well and he came out of it in good shape. I think it’s important to note that although the Lecomte is a nice race, it’s not our goal. We fully recognize that we’re trying to run beyond a mile 70 yards after this week. We know (being a late-running horse), that he will likely have to pass every one one of those horses to win, which may or may not happen.”

Amoss has been in a similar situation with a promising sophomore before. In 2015, he had one of the leading local Kentucky Derby hopefuls in Loooch Racing’s War Story and in 2013 he trained GoldMark Farm’s Mylute. War Story would place in all three Louisiana preps, including a runner-up finish in the Lecomte, while Mylute would finish a narrow second in the Louisiana Derby – a race that has gallingly eluded the New Orleans native – before finishing a respectable fifth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Grade I $1,500,000 Preakness Stakes.

“He’s a little different from them,” Amoss said. “He’s a May foal and he looks it. He is tall, but he’s not physically very mature yet. Mentally – meaning his racing mentality – he is also immature.

“With that in mind, you can look at it from a couple different perspectives,” he concluded. “You can either be excited about the future or worry that he’s not there yet. I prefer to keep the glass half-full. I’ve called him a work in progress.”



Pin Oak Stud’s highly regarded Noble Thought has been ruled out of the Grade III $200,000 TwinSpires.com Lecomte Stakes on Jan. 16 after a fracture in his right front leg was discovered following his final preparatory move for the race. The dark bay homebred son of Harlan’s Holiday had just worked a half-mile in 49.40 for trainer Mike Stidham, good for 28th of 123 moves at the distance, and had drawn the advantageous six-hole in the overflow field for Saturday’s race.

According to Stidham, Noble Thought, who had just graduated in a Lecomte course and distance maiden special weight in his last race in early December, will get at least 90 days of recovery. His win came in his first attempt for Fair Grounds Race Course & Slot’s leading trainer after making his first three starts in Canada for Malcolm Pierce over Woodbine’s Polytrack, placing in all.



While trainer Steve Asmussen could go home with at least five victories on Saturday’s stakes-filled Road to the Derby Kickoff Day card, a trophy from the Grade III $200,000 TwinSpires.com Lecomte Stakes will not be collected among those tallies. Well-bred and promising Asmussen pupil Battle Tap will instead compete on Monday in a one-mile allowance/optional claiming event at Fair Grounds, according to the conditioner.

The Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred son of Smart Strike and Fair Grounds graded stakes winner War Echo is exiting a fifth-place finish in the $250,000 Springboard Mile at Remington Park. That effort came three weeks after a sharp maiden-breaking victory over 1 1/16 miles at Churchill Downs – his first two-turn attempt. Overall, the chestnut has a record of a win and third from four career starts.

An overflow field of 15, including one also-eligible, entered the Lecomte on Friday, with Battle Tap drawing post eight. In the allowance, which has drawn nine horses – three also entered in the Lecomte – he once again drew mid-pack in post five. Florent Geroux rides.



Rosemont Farm’s homebred Harlan Punch could have entered the Grade III $200,000 Lecomte Stakes on Saturday, Jan. 16, and been one of the most accomplished entrants and possibly one of the likely favorites. Instead, the Tom Amoss trainee is taking a more conservative path. The son of Harlan’s Holiday is slated to run in Monday’s featured allowance/optional claiming event for 3-year-olds, an event that drew nine sophomores looking to possibly move forward on to the lucrative local 3-year-old stakes program that culminates with the Grade II $1,000,000 Louisiana Derby on Mar. 26.

“Harlan Punch is doing well,” Amoss said. “We had a chance to separate him and Mo Tom and he eligible for an allowance. This race came up and it fit him. He’s big-bodied colt and he is still filling out.”

Harlan Punch has started three times in his career. He broke his maiden first out in late August at Ellis Park going 5½ furlongs and then was a game second two months later in the Listed $200,000 Jean Lafitte Stakes at Delta Downs. Last out, he was third in the Grade III $1,000,000 Delta Jackpot behind multiple graded stakes winner Exaggerator, one of the more highly touted juveniles of his generation.


-Michael Adolphson | Media Specialist, Senior Writer