Amoss keeps the faith in his Kentucky Derby, Oaks hopefuls

Amoss keeps the faith in his Kentucky Derby, Oaks hopefuls
Photo: Churchill Downs

Veteran trainer Tom Amoss is keeping faith in Kentucky Derby hopeful Curly Jack and Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks prospect Hoosier Philly even though each endured disappointing 3-year-old debuts.

Curly Jack finished eighth in the Feb. 18 Risen Star Stakes (G2) at Fair Grounds. On the same day, Hoosier Philly absorbed her first defeat in four starts when she settled for third in the Rachel Alexandra (G2) as part of the Fair Grounds undercard.

“They’re doing fine,” Amoss said. “They’ve both been on a regular training schedule since their preps.”

Curly Jack is on course for the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) at 1 3/16 miles March 25 at Fair Grounds for owner Mike McLoughlin. The Louisiana Derby, with a strong field taking shape, will award qualifying points to the top five finishers on a 100-40-30-20-10 basis. The trainer said he is huddling with Gold Star Racing Stable’s Bill Stone and Rod Ratcliffe to determine the next Oaks prep for Hoosier Philly.

With 17 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, Curly Jack almost certainly needs to do more to reach the Derby on May 6 at Churchill Downs. The April 19 foal, by 2018 Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic, has shown an affinity for Churchill in winning the Sept. 17 Iroquois Stakes (G3) and placing second there in the Nov. 26 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2).

Hoosier Philly is in better position with 25 Oaks qualifying points. She swept her first three starts at Churchill Downs, breaking her maiden at 5 1/2 furlongs there on Sept. 25 before prevailing in the Oct. 30 Rags to Riches Stakes and the Nov. 26 Golden Rod (G2).

Amoss believes the pace scenarios worked against both of his runners in their first starts this season in very different ways. Both were ridden by Edgar Morales.

He said of Curly Jack, “The pace was very fast in his last race. He is a horse that is very versatile as far as that goes, and I was disappointed we were that close to the pace.” His colt was positioned sixth most of the way before weakening to eighth. Amoss would have been fine if his horse had been farther back in the 14-horse field in the early stages.

“The chart bears it out,” Amoss said. “The horses that were close to the pace all backed up. The horses that were patient ran well.”

Determinedly took the 14-horse field through an opening quarter in 23.34 seconds and half a mile in 47.50 seconds for the 1 1/8-mile contest. He wilted and finished last. Harlocap, who tracked him in second, weakened to sixth. Long shot Angel of Empire rallied from ninth to score by one length. Sun Thunder, 11th through that swift half-mile, closed well to nab second.

A very different race unfolded in the 1 1/16-mile Rachel Alexandra.

“It was the exact opposite of Curly Jack in terms of pace,” Amoss noted. “The horses that ran 1-2 finished 1-2 in that race.” Pretty Mischievous, after being second, overtook pace-setting Miracle to earn the decision by three-quarters of a length. Miracle had shown the way through three-quarters of a mile in a comfortable 1:13.05.

“It was hard to close against that pace scenario, so we’ll see how it goes,” Amoss said. It did not help that his daughter of Into Mischief bobbled at the start and was bumped.

Despite the challenging circumstances, Amoss acknowledged that he had hoped to see more from his previously undefeated filly. “She had a troubled trip,” he said, “but I would have liked to see her show more much at the end.”

Amoss asked for speed when Hoosier Philly returned to the work tab, and she responded with a four-furlong move in 47.60 seconds on March 2 at Fair Grounds that ranked fifth of 35 at the distance. She added another four-furlong work in 49 seconds flat a week later.

“She has trained consistently and worked weekly, which is on Twitter for all the world to see,” Amoss said. “She is doing well.”

Amoss appeared to be sitting pretty during the winter with Curly Jack as a solid Derby prospect and Hoosier Philly appearing to have the stuff to be a top contender in the Oaks. Now, he is on less solid ground.

Asked whether he expects Curly Jack to advance to the Derby and Hoosier Philly to the Oaks, Amoss responded, “I think we will have to let them answer that in their next starts.”

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