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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