Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready finished eighth and 12th Saturday at Churchill Downs, and though the horses — owned by New Orleans Pelicans and Saints owner Tom Benson and his wife, Gayle — came in outside the money, GMB’s Derby debut could lay a foundation for the future.
“It’s over today, but we’re going to look at what the next few weeks holds,” GMB spokesman Greg Bensel said. “Clearly we’d like to look into the Belmont, possibly, and clearly we’re going to go back into the sales and look at other horses and get other horses and keep this thing going. The Bensons love it.”
They would have loved a Kentucky Derby win more. It wasn’t in the cards Saturday.
Nyquist, the heavy favorite, won the 142nd Derby, finishing ahead of Exaggerator — trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother Kent, both Louisiana natives — and Louisiana Derby champion Gun Runner.
The finishers were too fast. Nobody with GMB seemed too furious.
Ultimately, neither Mo Tom nor Tom’s Ready had the speed to catch the speedy favorite unless he came back to the pack. And Nyquist never did.
“We got the right setup,” Mo Tom trainer Tom Amoss said. “It went very fast on the front end. The race just didn’t back up, despite the fast pace.”
The track was muddy but fast, the result of a late-afternoon downpour that darkened the skies and sent fans rushing for cover. By the time the Derby horses were off at 6:51 p.m. EDT, the only real impact of the rain was to leave mud splattering in their wake.
“I thought the track today was favoring a little speed,” Mo Tom jockey Corey Lanerie said. “I was hoping the rain would maybe help us.”
Instead, neither of the Bensons’ horses was able to mount a late threat.
Lanerie did “a lot of maneuvering,” he said, to navigate a 20-horse field. Jockey Brian Hernandez put Tom’s Ready “right where he wanted to be,” trainer Dallas Stewart said, but to no avail.
“If I can get that trip every time, the Derby would be easy,” Hernandez said. “We got right behind the winner, but turning for home, we just didn’t have the horse that they did.”
Tom’s Ready ran “right behind the speed” according to plan, Stewart said.
“He’s not a real come-from-behind horse; he’s kind of a mid-pack horse, and that’s where he was,” Stewart said. “(Hernandez) gave him a great ride, was in a good spot and got outrun.”
The GMB Racing team seemed to have a great ride of its own this week. Close to 25 people affiliated with the Bensons spent the entire week in the state, Bensel said, and about 50 more — some of them Saints and Pelicans employees — flew up Saturday. On Thursday, the Bensons visited the horse farms and grounds in and around Keeneland Racecourse, and the week whetted their appetite for trips back to Louisville with Derby contenders.
Bensel said Tom Benson told him, “Greg, I love this. We have to stay in this,” and he called the build-up to the Derby “Super Bowl-esque,” saying the total experience would be comparable to the Saints’ 2010 trip to the NFL’s premier event “had we won this.”
Though that would have been a sweeter finish, no one seemed sour Saturday.
“I’m proud that this was a Louisiana horse all the way, and we’re going to get ’em next time,” Amoss said.
Next time could be later this year at the Preakness or in the Belmont Stakes, though neither Amoss nor Stewart was ready to commit Saturday.
“I can tell you we’re not going to let the city (of New Orleans) down,” Amoss said. “Were going to be back here again.”
There may well be future Kentucky Derby horses. Until then, GMB still has work to do with its first two.
“While it’s over for now, these two horses are not done,” Bensel said. “These two horses are not done. They still have some races ahead. There’s some big Saturdays ahead for both of them.”
KENTUCKY DERBY FULL RESULTS
1. Nyquist; 2. Exaggerator; 3. Gun Runner; 4. Mohaymen; 5. Suddenbreakingnews; 6. Destin; 7. Brody's Cause; 8. Mo Tom; 9. Lani; 10. Mor Spirit; 11. My Man Sam; 12. Tom's Ready; 13. Creator; 14. Outwork; 15. Danzing Candy; 16. Trojan Nation; 17. Oscar Nominated; 18. Majesto; 19. Whitmore; 20. Shagaf