Tom Amoss and Serengeti Empress set to star on America's Day at the Races
by Keith McCalmont
Trainer Tom Amoss will be in a unique
position ahead of Saturday's Grade 1, $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap as the
trainer of Serengeti Empress, but also as an analyst charged with offering
color commentary on the star-studded field in front of a nationwide audience
on America's Day
at the Races.
Produced by the New York Racing Association, Inc. (NYRA) in partnership with FOX Sports, Saturday's edition of America's Day at the Races on FS1 will feature both the Grade 1 Apple Blossom and Grade 3, $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap from Oaklawn Park.
Amoss said he will do his best to be objective when discussing the talents of his 2019 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks-winning filly.
"We've been through this situation before on other shows, but certainly not on this scale, where I've had a horse in the race that we're covering," said Amoss. "One thing I can tell you is that this team is very candid and they have no problem picking against me.
"The whole point of the show is to dissect the race and give the bettors all the information we can," added Amoss. "There are going to be some real serious questions about post position, other speed in the race and how that affects Serengeti Empress one way or the other. Nothing is off limits."
Presented by America's Best Racing, Runhappy, and Claiborne Farm, Saturday's broadcast will be hosted by Greg Wolf and Laffit Pincay III, with Amoss debating the races with a broadcast team that includes retired Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens; accomplished analyst and handicapper Michelle Yu; and 2015 NHC Tour Champion Jonathon Kinchen.
"Everyone brings something different to the show and whether you're a handicapping novice or elite, you can watch the show and enjoy some different perspectives and open your eyes to some things you may not have considered before," said Amoss. "I really enjoy debating with the team and there are some very strong opinions there. And just like watching the races with your friends, it's fun afterwards to see whose opinions were right or wrong."
While other sports have shut down due to complications of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, horse racing is in a unique position to continue operating in a spectatorless environment.
Amoss said he is hopeful that America's Day at the Races can help to provide some normalcy while also shining a light on a sport he loves during this time of uncertainty.
"It's horse racing's window to show the world what a beautiful sport it is and to maybe bring some new fans into it," said Amoss. "It's a chance to let people see what power these elite equine athletes have on the track, along with the grace and beauty they possess. And maybe, through handicapping, you can make a little money along the way."
Serengeti Empress, who boasts a record of 16-6-3-1 with purse earnings in excess of $1.7 million for owner Joel Politi, has been on the lead at first call in all but one of her six career scores.
Joe Talamo guided Serengeti Empress to a front-running score last out in the Grade 2 Azeri at Oaklawn and will be charged with finding the lead once more from the difficult Post 11 in the short run up to the first turn at Oaklawn.
Amoss said he expects to hear from his fellow analysts about the difficult nature of being a speed threat in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile test in a loaded 14-horse field.
"There's a phrase I used on the show quite a bit - 'one-dimensional speed horse' - which means that the only way that horse gets to run their real race is by making the lead and using their speed," said Amoss. "If there are other horses in the race with speed like that, it compromises them. I think it can sometimes be taken as a criticism of a horse, but I don't mean for it to be."
"Serengeti Empress is not only the best 'one-dimensional speed horse' I've ever had, she's the best horse I've ever had," added Amoss. "I'm not trying to make her anything less than what she is because she is truly a brilliant racehorse, but she does need to make the lead to run her best race. When you review this race, there is legitimate speed to her inside with a few horses. How this all plays out on Saturday remains to be seen, but certainly the post position didn't do us any favors."
The talented Apple Blossom field includes four other grade 1 winners in Ollie's Candy, Come Dancing, Street Band and Ce Ce, which Amoss said adds a championship feel to Saturday's test.
"This field on Saturday, minus Midnight Bisou, is as tough and cosmopolitan a field of horses you're ever going to see in a race. It reads like a Breeders' Cup race," said Amoss. "There is proven talent and a lot of different variables at play including post position and how much pace we'll get. It's a puzzle. If anyone is 3-1 or less in this race, it's a disservice. There really is no clear cut favorite."
Serengeti Empress posted a bullet half-mile in 47.40 on April 4 at Fair Grounds and Amoss said it's a sign the filly is ready to fire a big shot.
"We've followed the same pattern as we did going into the Azeri," said Amoss. "When you see a quick work with her it's not so much that she's doing any better than she was doing previous, it's just a sign that she's on her game."
Amoss previously won the Apple Blossom in 2000 with Heritage of Gold to provide the veteran conditioner with his first Grade 1 win. A winner of 16 of 28 career starts and purse earnings in excess of $2.8-million, Heritage of Gold ran a streak of five graded stakes wins in 2000, including a score in the Grade 1 Go for Wand at Saratoga Race Course when a length the better of 1999 Eclipse Award-winning older mare Beautiful Pleasure.
Heritage of Gold, who was transferred to Amoss' care in the summer of 1999, finished third in the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Distaff in 1999 and 2000, while Serengeti Empress completed the trifecta in last year's edition.
"The main difference between the two of them is their journey with me. I found Serengeti Empress at the Keeneland sale and the hammer dropped for $70,000 on a day where the average was about $150,000 per horse," said Amoss. "On the other hand, Heritage of Gold was already an accomplished horse when I got her. She wasn't yet a Grade 1 stakes winner, but she was a horse that was developing when the trainer switch was made. She went on to do some really great things with us."
Amoss said the Breeders' Cup Distaff is again the goal for Serengeti Empress.
"Joel Politi and I have mapped it out that we'll race her the rest of this year with the goal of the Breeders' Cup Distaff in November and then she'll be retired," said Amoss.
Amoss, who is based at Fair Grounds Race Course in Louisiana, will not be traveling to Oaklawn for Saturday's race. Instead, he'll be broadcasting live from his own home with the able assistance of his wife/agent Colleen and his daughter Ashley, who is a videographer and photographer for the NFL's New Orleans Saints and the NBA's New Orleans Pelicans.
"There's always something new in the background," said Amoss. "Last week it was Easter eggs, you just have to keep your eyes open for it. It's part of the fun."
Win or lose on Saturday, Amoss said he will be proud of his Grade 1-winning filly.
"She's my girl," said Amoss. " I hate not being there for it, but no matter what...she's my girl."
America's Day at the Races, the acclaimed national telecast presenting coverage and analysis of the best racing from around the country, will air on FS1/FS2 on Saturday and Sunday for a combined 11 hours of national television coverage from Oaklawn Park and Tampa Bay Downs.
(All times Eastern)
Saturday, April 18
1:30 - 7 p.m. (FS1)
Sunday, April 19
1:30-2:30 p.m. (FS2)
2:30 - 6:30 p.m. (FS1)
6:30 - 7:00 p.m. (FS2)
Racing fans can also tune in to all of the exciting America's Day at the Races action via NYRA's YouTube channel which boasts more than 30,000 subscribers. Fans can subscribe to NYRA's channel and set a reminder to watch the show on YouTube Live. NYRA's YouTube channel also hosts a plethora of race replays, special features, Talking Horses episodes, America's Day at the Races replays and more.
In addition to a host of weekly special offers, NYRA Bets is currently offering a $200 deposit match bonus to new members. NYRA Bets is the official online wagering site for the New York Racing Association available to customers across the United States.
NYRA Bets provides fans the opportunity to wager on racing from tracks around the world at any time. The NYRA Bets app is available for download for iOS and Android at NYRA Bets App. Watch and wager on the best racing while earning points on every bet.
For further details on the new member bonus, visit NYRABets.com/#sign-up-bonus.
Free Equibase-provided past performances are available for races that are part of the America's Day at the Races broadcast and can be accessed at www.nyra.com/aqueduct/racing/tv-schedule.