SARATOGA SPRINGS — Fans can be sure to find an insider’s view this summer by tuning in to Saratoga Live and hanging on Tom Amoss’ every word.
Amoss has worked at every level of the game since he took out his trainer’s license in 1987, and his operation has grown from five horses to more than 70. He is playing at the highest level now after Serengeti Empress unleashed her breathtaking speed in winning the Kentucky Oaks before she placed second to undefeated Guarana in the Grade 1 Acorn on June 8 at Belmont Park.
Amoss, 57, is so adroit at using his contacts and experience to explain what others could not possibly know that Tony Allevato, NYRA’s chief revenue officer, president of NYRA Bets and an executive producer for NYRA TV, salutes him as “one of the best analysts in the country in horse racing.”
Amoss certainly strives for such heights.
“Having a trainer’s perspective and getting it across to the viewers is a special talent,” he said. “And I like to think I have the ability to do that. I like to put out things that are not data related, necessarily.”
Amoss brings his extraordinary insight to Saratoga Live every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the Saratoga meet. The critically-acclaimed television show, presented in partnership with FOX Sports, will feature live coverage of the Saratoga card most days of the meet beginning at 1 p.m. on FS2.
The unveiling of 2-year-olds is an integral part of racing at iconic Saratoga. For handicappers, it can be confounding since there are no past performances to study. Amoss helps to remove some of the mystery.
He may point out, for instance, the number of starting-gate works an unraced prospect has. He views any more than two as a possible sign of trouble.
“We don’t want to take that horse to the gate any more than we have to,” he said. “A standing start, which is what a gate work is, is hardest physically on a horse. To do it any more than you have to is something you don’t want.”
He also urges horseplayers to pay attention to workout dates and distances when a trainer with a large operation such as Todd Pletcher has more than one starter debuting.
“You can look down and you might often see they are working on the same day at the same distance,” Amoss said. “You can make a strong assumption that those horses are probably working together. You can look at those works to see who is displaying more talent of the two horses.”
Amoss is highly respected for his preparedness, whether he is training horses in the morning or providing expert commentary behind a Saratoga Live microphone in the afternoon.
“He knows his horses really well. He knows them from a physical standpoint but also from an ability standpoint,” said Joel Politi, owner of Serengeti Empress. “He knows if something is wrong with them to be able to deal with it. He knows what their value is as far as being able to place them. He has a strong working knowledge of his horses, and ultimately that is what makes him a great trainer.”
Through the years, Amoss has gained a reputation for possessing a sharp eye for racing prospects. Serengeti Empress was a $70,000 find when Amoss spotted her at Keeneland’s 2017 September Yearling Sale.
“She is at the top of the class with his yearling picks,” Politi said, “but he’s had a lot of other success with his yearlings.”
Serengeti Empress is taking Amoss, his wife, Colleen, and their two daughters, Ashley, 28, and Hayley, 26, on a ride like no other.
“To have a horse that I picked out as a yearling and to be a part of her life since the hammer fell in September of her yearling year and going to the races and developing her into an Oaks winner…I feel so blessed that this horse has come into my life,” Amoss said.
The same enthusiasm about all things racing can be heard when it is his time to contribute on Saratoga Live.
“Tom’s a phenomenal talent,” Allevato said. “He is incredibly competitive because of his training side. He pays very close attention to detail. You won’t find anybody who will work harder than him or anybody who is trying to succeed more than he is.”
Collen, Amoss’ wife of 32 years, quickly realized that her husband brings the same intensity to broadcasting as he does to the barn. Others kick back at Saratoga; he does not.
“We don’t rent boats and go out on the lake,” she said. “I was hoping we were going to do that, but it hasn’t worked out that way. He does have to commit his time to studying the races when he’s not training.”
Allevato recognized Amoss’ potential — and overlooked his lack of television experience — when he hired him on behalf of TVG in 2000 to be part of a show called The Works.
“I cut my teeth on that show is the right way to put it because in no way was I a fluid person on the air,” Amoss said. “They tolerated my camera presence because they thought I had some substance in what I was saying.”
He found that broadcasting can be every bit as challenging as training.
“When Tom first started, he had to learn which camera to look into with the multiple cameras being used on the set, being able to talk while someone is talking into your earpiece, being able to talk in short, concise soundbites,” Allevato said. “He might have a minute’s worth of content that he needs to get out and the producer will say, ‘Give me 15 seconds’ worth.’ “
Saratoga Live viewers quickly learn that those 15 seconds from Amoss can make all the difference in picking a winner.