The horse that finished third in last year’s Risen Star Stakes went on to beat legend American Pharoah six months later.
That’s the good news for Tom and Gayle Benson, whose horse Mo Tom finished third on Saturday at the Fair Grounds.
The third-place finish gave Mo Tom 22 points for the season, probably good enough to qualify for the Kentucky Derby.
That’s exactly how many points Keen Ice, last year’s third-place finisher in the Risen Star earned to qualify for the Derby. Keen Ice finished seventh at Churchill Downs and then beat Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at the Travers Stakes in August.
Mo Tom got 10 points for the third on a good day that could have been a great day. It all changed at the 3/16th pole.
That’s when Bistraya drifted in front of Mo Tom.
“Everything was going really good,” Mo Tom jockey Corey Lanerie said. “He was running like a freight train. That one horse, I don’t know where he came from, he wiped me out. I lost all my momentum and it cost me the race. It’s disappointing. When you are doing it for Tom Benson and those people, you want to do good for those people.”
Mo Tom suffered a cut on his leg because of the collision, but recovered to finish ahead of Candy My Boy.
Mo Tom finished a length behind Forevemo, which would have given him 20 points, and 1½ length behind the winner Gun Runner, which would have given him 50 points.
But Gayle Benson was pleased with the finish.
“We are very proud of his race and his effort, especially since he was virtually stopped in the stretch and came running to finish third,” said Mrs. Benson. “We look forward to being there to run in the Louisiana Derby (on March 26).”
Lanerie hopes he gets to ride Mo Tom again.
“If they don’t fire me,” he said, managing to crack a joke after the race.
“Today I just didn’t want it to be my fault and today it wasn’t my fault. But I’m the one steering it out there. It’s unfortunate. He’s a really nice horse and hopefully we’ll get ’em next time.”
Trainer Thomas Amoss exited quickly after the race, heading to the barn to check on Mo Tom. He said afterwards that Mo Tom was OK, but he knows what could have been.
“He ran a great race,” Amoss said. “If that doesn’t happen, I think he would have won.”
It would have capped off a perfect day for Amoss and Lanerie.
Lanerie rode Venus Valentine to an improbable victory just an hour earlier in the Rachel Alexandra. Venus Valentine got off to a slow start, bumping into Forever Darling right out the gate.
Amoss was watching that one from a television screen and things weren’t looking good.
“I was saying to myself and I was saying it a lot ‘please get in the picture soon,’ ” Amoss said.
Venus Valentine eventually got into the picture, pulling off a stunning win despite 74-1 odds.
While Venus Valentine made his way into the picture on the television screen, Mo Tom made his way into the Kentucky Derby picture.
And that’s good news for the Fair Grounds.
Tim Bryant, Fair Grounds president, knows having the Benson name at the races means.
“Tom and Gayle have been great for the city of New Orleans, so they have a lot of fans. It didn’t hurt us having two of their horses out here today.”
Their other horse, Tom’s Ready, finished seventh in the Risen Star.
The Louisiana Derby is just over a month away.
The Fair Grounds is in the home stretch.
The Bensons can only hope the the home stretch is a bit kinder to Mo Tom.