Mo Tom Works at Churchill, Lani Intrigues With Languid Move

gmf-news-04-20-motom-churchillBy Jennie Rees

Tom Amoss says he hopes Mo Tom can get an unimpeded trip in a race so that the public can witness what the trainer sees regularly in the mornings. And April 20 in the pre-dawn at Churchill Downs, that included a half-mile workout in :47 flat in preparation for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The gallop-out was spectacular, with the Churchill clockers timing Mo Tom for the five-eighths of a mile in :59 2/5, six furlongs in 1:12 2/5, seven-eighths in 1:26 1/5 and the mile in 1:42.

“It was a typical work for Mo Tom,” Amoss said later in his tack-room office. “We went a little quick early, and that’s simply rider error. But he came back nicely in the work and he went around there very well. So we have time to correct that in his next work. We feel really good where we are with the horse right now.”

Amoss said exercise rider Mario Garcia is the only rider who works Mo Tom.

“They have a great rapport,” he said. “I think he was a little anxious this morning and a little worried about how quick he was going or not going. Honestly, Tom can fool you. Because he’s got a big strong, long stride, so you sometimes don’t recognize he’s going quite that fast. But in his races, he switches off so easily out of the gate, which is totally his style. I’m not worried about the work anymore than in the sense if you look at the splits, you might scratch your head and say, ‘Why does he go so fast early in a work?’ It just was an error.”

The late-running Mo Tom won Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots Lecomte Stakes (gr. III) before having to check sharply at the top of the stretch in both the Risen Star (gr. II) and Louisiana Derby (gr. II), winding up third and fourth, respectively, under Corey Lanerie.

“Look, I know what I’ve got,” Amoss said. “I’ve seen what he can do finishing in any kind of work situation. I can say with confidence that he is the best 3-year-old I’ve ever trained, and I’m hopeful everybody else gets to see that, too.

“… I think Corey’s comment after the Louisiana Derby kind of sums it up: ‘You know what? I had more horse than I knew what to do with.’ That was a quote he said publicly, not just to me. I look at this Derby and I see a lot of horses wanting to do what my horse wants to do, which is lay back and finish at the end. There’s a little part of me that wonders how much speed is going to be in this race. I’m counting on the pace being what it always is in the Derby, and that’s not only legitimate but typically too quick early. Certainly I’m hoping for that in this race, too.”

Mo Tom became guaranteed of a spot among the Derby’s 20 potential starters when the speedy Cupid was declared out following a 10th-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) as the heavy favorite. Cupid subsequently was to have minor surgery to correct a breathing obstruction.

“It’s a funny thing, right?” Amoss said. “For Cupid to withdraw allows us to get in. At the same time, it takes a little speed away from the race. I hope we don’t miss that speed.”

Only one horse worked a half-mile faster than Mo Tom out of 27 works at the distance on the day, with Mohaymen breezing in :46 4/5.

REES: Mohaymen Wows in First Churchill Work

Amoss said his target time “just guessing, was probably :48 and change. It was a little quicker than what I would have had in mind. But in fairness, the track was very fast this morning.”

Mo Tom typically has a powerful gallop, which makes his works deceiving on paper, the trainer said. “He’s going to show three half-mile works between the Louisiana Derby and the Kentucky Derby,” he added of the six-week spread, “I’m sure a lot of people are going to question is that enough work for two races spread out pretty far apart in time and also getting a horse ready to go a mile-and-a-quarter. The answer is it’s definitely enough work as far as Tom is concerned, because he does so much more than just what you’re seeing on paper in that half-mile work.”

Mo Tom, a $150,000 Keeneland September yearling, races in the name of GMB Racing, the stable name of Gayle Benson, wife of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson. GMB also campaigns the Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready, the Louisiana Derby runner-up and Kentucky Derby aspirant.

Amoss said nothing has been finalized as to who will ride Mo Tom in the Kentucky Derby.

“It just recently was (official) that we’re getting in the Derby,” he said. “This is going to be a decision made by GMB Racing. I know that Corey is under strong consideration and they’ll announce it when they are ready. My job is to get the horse to the race, and whoever ends up riding him, I’m going to get him as familiar with my horse as I possibly can.”

Of the three workouts for Kentucky Derby candidates at Churchill Downs, there couldn’t have been a bigger contrast between Mohaymen and Mo Tom than with Lani, winner of the UAE Derby (gr. II) and who would be only the second Japanese-based horse to run in America’s greatest horse race.

Lani was announced beforehand as working five-eighths of a mile after galloping a mile. But his work started so slowly that observers wondered if he was going to work around the turn instead of finishing at the wire. Indeed, Lani picked up the pace midway through the far turn, but he was pretty much shut down past the wire. His final time of 1:06 barely made the cutoff to have a published workout. The Churchill clockers timed the Kentucky-bred son of Tapit in :13 4/5, :27 1/5, :40 2/5 and :52 4/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:23 4/5.

However, Keita Tanaka, agent for owner Koji Maeda and who has been serving as the barn’s translator, said the work intentionally was devoid of speed, being Lani’s first since the March 26 UAE Derby.

“It was designed to be what you saw,” he said. “Everything went as planned, so I’m very happy with that. We don’t do the super-fast work. We will do something faster next week and probably three or four days before the Derby.”

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