Betting on the Bensons

Betting on the Bensons

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - These thoroughbred horses appear to be laid-back and mellow, eating their peppermints and fooling around in the barn. But don't let the camera fool you. These are champions looking to make history. Gayle and Tom Benson are trying to pull off something nearly impossible in sports ownership: a Super Bowl title, and a Kentucky Derby in their trophy case.

"Gayle and I just love the idea of winning, that's the thrill of it all," said Pelicans and Saints Owner Tom Benson. "When you see your horse coming in, it's like winning a football game or a basketball game. At the end is when you get really excited, at least I do, and Gayle does too. We've had some exciting times you know. Between football, basketball, and horse racing."

GMB Racing, which represents Gayle's initials, started racing thoroughbreds last August. Six months later, the Bensons have Derby fever thanks to Mo Tom and Tom's Ready. Owners can go entire careers without one horse ever racing in the Kentucky Derby, GMB has an unprecedented "double-shot" at Louisville.

"I would say that GMB Racing has been blessed by the horse gods. Their very first year out of the box, and here they are with two fine 3-year-olds in February of their Derby season," said Mo Tom trainer Tom Amoss.

"I've talked to some people that have been in the horse business a long time. They can't hardly believe how fast we've moved, what happened! I've been trying to get in the damn Kentucky Derby for years, okay," said Tom Benson.

The Derby is two-and-a-half months away, and Mo Tom and Tom's Ready still have two races before then at the Fair Grounds. With neither yet to qualify for the "big one", Gayle is taking a more guarded approach when it comes to Derby chatter.

"I try not to think about where we're going, because I don't want to think too quickly or too far ahead of myself. So I just think every race, this one, this one, and this one. Just a little at a time. I'm just hoping it comes to, what we want it to be," said Gayle Benson.

Tom Benson bought the New Orleans Saints in 1985, but that wasn't his first venture into sports ownership. In the 1970's he tried horse racing, with little success.

"We have a ranch in Texas. My son Bob thought perhaps we could raise some horses there, and race them too. After we got into it, we won a couple of races, thought we knew the horse business. We found out it wasn't a good idea to race horses over there," said Tom Benson.

GMB has given Tom a rebirth in racing, and he plans to celebrate like it's Super Bowl 44 if one of his thoroughbreds is in the Derby.

"I opened my big mouth and said, if we're in the Kentucky Derby, I'm inviting all of y'all up there. Oh my, oh gee! So we're in the process of chartering an airplane that will fit everybody," said Tom Benson. Gayle chimed in with a laugh, "35 people later."

Now the pressure is on the trainers and the horses to send the Benson's Kentucky-bound. Trainer Dallas Stewart is "ready" for the challenge.

"Well I know they're dreaming about it now, and that's what this game is all about. It would be terrific for them to cap off right away if we could get it for them. They're terrific, I love their enthusiasm. They've been fortunate so far, but we need to carry on, and get the job done for them," said Tom's Ready trainer Dallas Stewart.

Gayle's touch extends beyond the GMB name. She designed the jockey's silks, and holds the racing license. Having her hand in the stable is the foundation for something significant down the line.

"Gayle's here now because the day will come she's going to take this over. I hope that's not too soon, " said Tom Benson.

Mo Tom and Tom's Ready will both race tomorrow in the Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds. If either horse wins, they'll automatically qualify for the Kentucky Derby.

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