Trainer Tom Amoss, right, with Reeves Thoroughbreds’ Isolate, who gave the Louisiana native his 4,000th career win
Trainer Tom Amoss secured his 4,000th career win when Reeves Thoroughbred Racing’s Isolate posted a gate-to-wire score in Wednesday’s ninth renewal of the $135,000 Tale of the Cat, a seven-furlong sprint for older horses yet to win a graded stakes in 2022, at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
An emotional Amoss said his immediate thoughts following the impressive six-length score were of his family and their years of support.
“I thought about my mom and dad,” Amoss said. “They knew nothing about racing. I’m one of six boys. When I decided I wanted to be a horse trainer after high school, they said, ‘You have to get a college degree, but after that, we’ll be behind you whatever you want to do.’
“I got my degree in 1983 from LSU and went straight to the racetrack – no business interviews, just grabbed a shank and started walking horses,” he added. “I’d been familiar with the racetrack a bunch as I had part time jobs there, but my family’s support, any trainer will tell you, you have to have a good family behind you because they make a lot of sacrifices.”
Isolate, a 4-year-old son of Mark Valeski, broke alertly from the inside post under Tyler Gaffalione and marked off splits of 22.73 seconds and 45.73 over the fast main track with Mr Phil tracking from second position in front of Repo Rocks.
Repo Rocks, with Andrew Wolfsont up, advanced four-wide through the turn with the Manny Franco-piloted even-money favorite Southern District chasing his bid. But there was no denying Isolate, who opened up a 1 1/2-length advantage at the stretch call and drew off to win by six lengths in a final time of 1:23.04. Repo Rocks completed the exacta by 3 1/2-lengths over Mr Phil with Southern District rounding out the order of finish. Awesome Gerry, who was pulled up at the half-mile pole, incurred a catastrophic injury to his right foreleg and was humanely euthanized on track.
Amoss said he was concerned about Isolate being able to handle the stretch out to seven furlongs due to the potential threat of pace pressure from Mr Phil from the outermost post 5.
“We were very concerned about the outside horse challenging us early. When we were able to clear the field, I felt pretty comfortable,” Amoss said. “Turning for home, the big favorite moved up on our outside and I was like, here he comes, he’s going to give us his big run. But Isolate was able to kick on. I knew at the eighth pole he was going to win and that was a beautiful feeling.”
Gaffalione said he felt confident throughout.
“Tom said, ‘be aggressive with him’. He jumped great for me and he took control fairly easily,” Gaffalione said. “Coming to the top of the stretch I asked him for a little bit more, and he kept finding.”
Gaffalione expressed his gratitude at being part of the milestone score.
“It means the world,” Gaffalione said. “Tom has been a great supporter of mine the past few years ever since I came up to Kentucky. He’s given me such great opportunities and I’m so thankful to be part of the team.”
Isolate entered from a similar front-running effort in the 6 1/2-furlong Work All Week in June at Hawthorne, which was the bay colt’s third win in his four previous starts.
Amoss said Isolate touted himself in a trio of morning workouts at Saratoga.
“Saratoga is a place where horses tell you right away whether they like the surface or not,” Amoss said. “Isolate was one of the ones in our barn, who really liked the surface a lot. The worry was the distance and race set up, not his overall talent.”
Amoss, 60, who graduated from Louisiana State University with a degree in marketing, worked with horses in high school. After finishing school, he worked for trainers Jack Van Berg, Frank Brothers, Larry Robideaux and John Parisella before going out on his own in 1987.
The New Orleans native, who was inducted to the Fair Grounds Hall of Fame in 1998, has won leading trainer titles at Fair Grounds Race Course, Churchill Downs, Ellis Park and Kentucky Downs.
Amoss’s first graded stakes win came in 1990 when Festive captured the Grade 3 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds. Ten years later, Amoss achieved Grade 1 glory when Heritage of Gold won the Apple Blossom Handicap at Oaklawn Park ahead of a score in that year’s Go for Wand Handicap at Saratoga.
The veteran trainer identified Joel Politi’s Serengeti Empress as a career favorite. The talented daughter of Alternation wired a field of 14 sophomore fillies in the 2019 Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs. Amoss also conditioned Serengeti Empress to victory in the 2020 Grade 1 Ballerina at the Spa.
“It’s got to be the Kentucky Oaks with Serengeti Empress,” said Amoss regarding a standout moment. “But there’s so many and I don’t want to leave any horse or person out. I just want to emphasize, in training, you can’t get anywhere without the horses and the owners that back you. I’ve had a lot of that and I’m so grateful to the owners and the athletes they gave me.
“I love working with animals and I love working with horses,” he added. “It’s easy to wake up here in the morning, no matter what you did last night. It’s a spot you look forward to coming to in the mornings.”
Bred in Kentucky by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Isolate banked $74,250 in victory, while improving his record to 11-6-1-2. He returned $14.60 for a $2 win ticket.
Live racing resumes Thursday at Saratoga with a 10-race card featuring the $150,000 Galway in Race 9. First post is 1:05 p.m. Eastern.
Saratoga Live will present daily coverage and analysis of the summer meet at Saratoga Race Course on the networks of FOX Sports. For the complete broadcast schedule, visit https://www.nyra.com/saratoga/racing/tv-schedule.
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