LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sean Payton is a relative novice to this thoroughbred racing thing, but the New Orleans Saints coach catches on fast.
Payton sat at Tom Benson’s table Wednesday at Churchill Downs and saw as the thoroughbred veterans nodded — and sometimes shouted — their approval for the post-position draws for the Saints and Pelicans owner’s two Kentucky Derby horses.
Mo Tom will run from the No. 4 position Saturday. Tom’s Ready drew the No. 12 spot.
“It seems like, by and large, you want to avoid the extreme inside or outside,” Payton said. “I think they were happy.”
But the men preparing the two Derby horses owned by Benson’s GMB Racing stable — Mo Tom trainer Tom Amoss and Tom’s Ready trainer Dallas Stewart — also were happy with the position of the competition.
Specifically, both were pleased to see speedy Danzing Candy on the extreme outside at the No. 20 post.
“Here’s the speed of the race, and he’s drawn all the way to the outside,” Amoss said. “He’s going to have to use horse in that first quarter-mile to get over before the first turn. To do that — and to get in front of everybody else in the race — he’s going to have to go fast. Probably faster than he wants to go.”
That could set up a fast-paced race, and both Amoss and Stewart are rooting for one.
A quick pace is “good for the closers,” Amoss said, and “really good for Mo Tom.”
“I think (the speed horses) will rock and roll early, and I think that’ll help us,” said Stewart, who was “very comfortable” with Tom’s Ready’s No. 12 spot, despite his morning-line odds of 30-1.
The 12 position is toward the center of the track. Jockeys will fight for position in the middle. Brian Hernandez Jr. will start there.
“We just got to run straight, stay out of trouble and take it home from there,” Stewart said.
Jockey Corey Lanerie likely will have to do more maneuvering on Mo Tom, whose morning-line odds were set at 20-1, but the No. 4 post gives him the flexibility to move inside or out, said Amoss, whose horse was the last to be slotted in the random draw and who was hoping to avoid the No. 1 or 2 post.
“Four’s my lucky number,” Amoss said, “as of about 15 minutes ago.”
Nyquist, the favorite at 3-1, drew the No. 13 post position. Louisiana Derby winner Gun Runner is at 10-1 in the No. 5.
Despite longer odds, the Benson team is content with its draws, and the owner said his horses are “going after it” on Saturday with the intent to win the first leg of racing’s Triple Crown.
“That’s what we’ve been doing,” Benson said. “We’ve been winning.”