At odds of 2-5 and so highly regarded that she was the only filly included in Round 4 of the Derby Future Wager, Hoosier Philly (Into Mischief) was a well-beaten third in the GII Rachel Alexandra S. at the Fair Grounds Feb. 18. It was the last thing trainer Tom Amoss expected from a filly he had called the best horse he ever trained and who was 3-for-3 going in.
But as Hoosier Philly prepares for a start in the Mar. 25 GII Fair Grounds Oaks, Amoss said everything he has seen tells him that his filly is about to show everyone what all the hype was about.
Has he lost any confidence in the horse? “Zero,” he replied. “I still think she’s the best horse I have ever had in my barn.”
Amoss spoke shortly after Hoosier Philly worked five furlongs at the Fair Grounds Thursday morning in 1:00. It was her third work since the Rachel Alexandra.
“I’ve had her since June of her 2-year-old year,” said Amoss, who confirmed that Edgar Morales has retained the mount. “I know her personality. The way she has trained and the way she has worked out since her last race gives me a lot of confidence going into this next race.”
Yet, he was saying pretty much the same thing before the Rachel Alexandra and he knows that Hoosier Philly did not back up his high expectations. So what happened? Amoss believes that she was compromised by a less than perfect trip.
“You have to be honest with yourself. It was not a good race,” Amoss said. “Then you have to figure out why it was not a good race. What was behind it? Nine times out of 10 when a horse has a bad trip in a race it starts right out of the gate. That’s exactly what happened. She left the gate fine. She almost broke a little too hard. Then she stumbled and lost her balance a bit and found herself in a bad spot. The way to race ride, especially when there is a big favorite in the race, is to take advantage of something like that. The riders riding against her very alertly made her trip a very difficult one. The next thing you know she’s last. She’s eager and wanting to go. The pace wasn’t very fast and there’s no place for her to go. The pace was not only slow but look at chart of the race. Nobody changed positions except for her. Those things hurt in a race. She found herself in a position she wasn’t used to being in.”
At the top of the stretch and very much within striking position, Morales wheeled Hoosier Philly to the outside and she had a clear run. She didn’t respond, losing even more ground on the leaders in the stretch, losing by 8 1/2 lengths.
“I thought even after tough trip, turning for home she would show some punch and she did not,” Amoss admitted. “That was a concern.”
It was a major blow not just for those who bet Hoosier Philly in the Rachel Alexandra but for anyone who wagered on her in the Derby Future Wager. She went off at 11-1, third choice behind the “all others” option and Forte (Violence). A total of $16,956 was bet on her. Amoss has ruled out a start in the Derby and wishes she had not been included in the wager in the first place. Along with Julia Shining (Curlin), Hoosier Philly was one of only two fillies nominated to the Triple Crown.
“I’m not the guy who decided to put her in the future pool,” he said. “Nobody ever came to me and said we want to put her in the Derby Future pool, are you good with that? I don’t know what determines what goes into that. I can’t worry about that. I’m just trying to do right by my horse. I never wanted the public to be led in the wrong direction. Had they asked me, I wouldn’t have been comfortable putting her in the Derby Future Pool. I don’t think it was fair to have people betting on something that may not occur.”
Hoosier Philly went off at 7-1 in the one round of the Kentucky Oaks Future Wager, which closed last Sunday. Should she win the Fair Grounds Oaks impressively that will look like a bargain. But will she? There are too many unknowns this time for her to be a heavy favorite. Amoss knows that and knows that this is the most important race thus far in her career. Was the Rachel Alexandra for, whatever reason, a race that you can throw out? Or did Hoosier Philly not make the all important transition from two to three? Or maybe she just isn’t as good as everyone thought. Every one of those questions should be answered in her next start.
“I’ll be nervous when she goes to the gate,” Amoss said. “Leading into the race I’m just trying to concentrate on the things I can control and I think we’ve done a good job taking care of those things. I would love to think that last race was a one off. There is enough evidence to suggest it will be. This race coming up will determine whether that’s true or not. I know that.”