How you feel about the New Orleans Saints or the New Orleans Pelicans could have a big impact on how you feel about both Tom's Ready and Mo Tom in the upcoming Kentucky Derby. The Tom in both of their names is Tom Benson, their owner and the owner of both of New Orleans' major professional teams. Benson had been in the game in the 70s and 80s but had not been involved until 2014 when he again plunged in aggressively. Obviously he bought well, with 10 percent of the likely Derby field coming from his young stable despite the fact he only bought seven yearlings.
Tom's Ready is the less flashy and accomplished of the two runners, but thanks to a second-place finish last time out he heads to Kentucky with more momentum than his stablemate. Will that momentum be enough? Is this horse going to be a factor in Kentucky?
Last race: Tom's Ready endured some contact out of the gate in the Louisiana Derby and settled off the pace after emerging from it. He looked like he was fighting his jockey, but he still stayed contained until moving up around the final turn. He found a clear path and rode it through the crowd. He looked like he was going to drift dangerously at the top of the stretch but then came under control. He chased winner Gun Runner, but he wasn't even close to good enough to catch him. He held on gamely for second. Critics have pointed out that he got an ideal trip while others - most notably fellow Benson runner Mo Tom - didn't. You can never argue that luck isn't a big part of racing, though, and on this day luck was on his side.
Prior experience: The good trip in the Louisiana Derby was redemption for a lousy trip in the Risen Star last time out. He was forced way wide on the turns in that race and faded badly down the stretch, winding up seventh. It wasn't ideal and made a strong Louisiana Derby day crucial for Derby eligibility. His other race as a three year old was a second-place finish in the LeComte, the first key prep for the Louisiana Derby. He led that race late but was passed by Mo Tom. As a two year old he raced six times, including two graded stakes that did not go well for him. Overall he has just one win in his eight starts, though he has also finished second three times. There are certainly going to be more impressive race records in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
Trainer: Like others in the Derby field - McLaughlin, Pletcher - Dallas Stewart is from the D. Wayne Lukas training tree - he was an assistant for the legend for 12 years before going out on his own. He has won a Breeders' Cup race but has fallen painfully short of a Triple Crown race win on multiple occasions - he has finished second twice in the Derby and twice more in the Preakness. He has had one notable Churchill Downs accomplishment, though - he won the Kentucky Oaks with Lemons Forever as the biggest long shot ever in that race. That's a good omen here for what will surely be another Churchill long shot. I would call Stewart more competent than brilliant, but the horse certainly isn't in bad hands.
Jockey: It will probably be Brian Hernandez, Jr., but we don't know for sure at this point. The horse has had a different rider for each of his last four races - far from a good sign for a horse and his reputation. Hernandez has been aboard for four of his nine races, though - a win and two seconds being the highlights - so he'd likely be the best choice. He has not won a Triple Crown race and hasn't been in a ton of them, but he won the Breeders' Cup Classic in 2012, so he can step it up on big days. Tom's Ready would be in good hands under Hernandez.
Breeding: Tom's Ready is sired by More Than Ready, an elite stallion who has sired two Breeders' Cup winners and elite three year old of 2013 Verrazano among many others. He provides stamina influences. Tom's Ready's damsire is Broad Brush, who was third in both the Derby and the Preakness in 1986. He had a solid career as a stallion and provides solid stamina influences as well. The breeding is sound for this horse. As an interesting sidenote, Broad Brush is also the damsire of Fort Larned, the horse that Hernandez, Jr. won his Breeders' Cup Classic on.
Odds: He is not a popular betting interest at this point. BetOnline has him listed at 40/1. In the final official Kentucky Derby futures pool, which took place the same weekend as the Florida Derby, he opened at a 20/1 morning line but was all the way up to 70/1 when the pool closed. I would expect his Derby odds to fall somewhere in the middle of the two.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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