The Saints suffered through another losing campaign in 2015. However, most pundits would have to note that the team finished well (winning three of their last four games) and, coupled with the re-signing of Sean Payton, that there is a ton of positivity coming off of Airline Drive.

Those positive vibes may be carrying over into the playoffs. No, not the NFL playoffs. And, they’re not even called playoffs, they are called “preps.” As in, Kentucky Derby preps.

And prep season at the New Orleans Fair Grounds is officially in full swing with the 72nd running of the $200,000 Lecomte Stakes, the first Derby prep race at the track. And it couldn’t have started off better for Gayle Benson, who just entered the horse racing game a year ago, laying out $900,000 on a seven-horse stable, according to the Times-Picyune. And that tidy sum is already paying dividends.

Benson had two entries in the Lecomte – Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready (how did she come up with those names?). They would be up against a strong field of freshly-minted three year olds (for racing purposes, all thoroughbred birthdays are on Jan. 1), with entries from Steve Asmussen, Todd Pletcher and D. Wayne Lukas. Not that the Bensons don’t have their own heavyweight trainers – Dallas Stewart handles Tom’s Ready, and the New Orleans-born Tom Amoss trains Mo Tom. Point being – it was a real horse race folks.

And one that had to make the locals smile as Mo Tom took victory. Mo Tom, ridden by Corie Lanerie, bested the field in impressive fashion. The thoroughbred was easily 10 lengths off of the front runner, Z Royal, at the half mile mark, before making his move to the front. And what it move it was. After catching the pack at the quarter-pole, Mo Tom faced a wall of horses in front of him. Instead of ducking inside, Lanerie took the long route and went outside, a move that only makes sense if a jockey knows he has a lot of horse left. And, Lanerie was correct, as Mo Tom caught and passed Z Royal at the 16 pole. But – he was still behind one horse – his stable mate Tom’s Ready. The stretch run was all GMB Racing, so to speak. Tom’s Ready – with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard for the first time – gave it his all, but was no match for Mo Tom, who thundered down the center of the track and onto victory.

Both horses will likely be pointed to the Risen Star Stakes, ran at the Fair Grounds, on Feb. 20.

 

And like a fine wine with a steak dinner, every resolution should be accompanied by a beverage and song.

 

Beer Pairing – Alltech’s “Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Playlist Recommendation – David Bowie’s “Oh! You Pretty Things”

 

Around the Way

The Gold Nuggets of Xavier University let one get away Saturday, falling 54-47, to the Talladega College Tornadoes. It was one of those games you put behind you immediately, as the Nuggets just couldn’t hit a shot – shooting 25 percent for the game, and only putting up 14 points in the first half. The Gold Nuggets (13-6), who are led by senior guard Whitney Gathright (who played ball for John Curtis Christian) are ranked 13th in the country in the NAIA Division I.

The Loyola Wolf Pack Women’s Basketball team knocked off Faulkner University, 67-57, on Saturday afternoon in Montgomery, Alabama. The Wolf Pack are on a six-game winning streak, and are 25th in the country in NAIA Division I. There are a lot of games to be played before then, but the Xavier-Loyola matchup on Feb. 17, in The Den is shaping up to be a big one. Mark your calendars.

Don’t come to New Orleans – at this point all schools should be put on notice about heading to the Crescent City to play some of our local teams, because they are going to get sent packing with the ‘L’ in the win-loss column. But if they must – Xavier, Loyola, and the Tulane Green Wave Women’s basketball teams are a combined 23-2 at home so far this season. See?

Gayle Benson’s “Other” TeamThis has nothing to do with sports, but I feel the need to mention the latest “only in New Orleans” moment in my life. It was Saturday, and the sun was shining down upon the French Quarter, and the buzz in the air and feeling was just right. It was a day you couldn’t help but smile. What drew us to the Quarter was the online call of current-New Orleanians, Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Arcade Fire to the masses to join them at Preservation Hall, the kick off spot for a second line in memory of David Bowie. A call that was answered not only by locals, but from starwomen and starmen all across the country. I spoke with folks who had driven in from Denver and Fort Worth….just for a second line.

And it was a mess, totally unorganized, and we were packed up against strangers…and we all had a good time. We only watched the beginning of it, as Arcade Fire marched away from Preservation Hall, we didn’t have the opportunity to move. So, we went the other direction, and retired to Erin Rose, our favorite bar in the Quarter. The rest of the night was spent listening to Bowie tracks on the juke box, and cheering for people – dressed like Bowie, or whatever other new wave incarnation that set their heart aflame – as they entered the bar. It was a great New Orleans night. And by night, I mean I was home asleep by 10 p.m. Ziggy Stardust Forever.

 

 

 

 

*Bowie Gras photo by Melanie Warner Spencer