01/09/2010 12:00AM

Amoss shows no signs of slowing down

Barbara D. Livingston
The promising 3-year-old Backtalk may run in the Risen Star Stakes.

NEW ORLEANS - Even for a high-percentage trainer like Tom Amoss, this Fair Grounds meet is off to a dramatic start.

Entering Saturday's racing, Amoss had 16 wins from 59 starts, one fewer victory than leader Steve Asmussen, who had sent out 142 horses.

With his promising 3-year-old Backtalk scheduled to rejoin his barn soon, Amoss, 48, may have a lot more to look forward to this meet.

Backtalk began his 2-year-old season 3 for 3, with victories in the Grade 2 Sanford and the Grade 3 Bashford Manor. He completed his season by finishing fourth in the Hopeful and last of eight in the Oct. 10 Breeders' Futurity.

Backtalk is scheduled to ship to Fair Grounds within the next two weeks.

"Backtalk is galloping at Gold Mark Farm in Ocala," said Amoss. "He's pointed toward the Grade 3 Risen Star on Feb. 20."

As for his barn's hot start, Amoss considers it part of the cyclical nature of the racing game.

"It's had its ups and downs, but if we can be consistent over the years, then I'm proud of what we've done," Amoss said. "If you believe in your program, you don't change, even in tough times. I've gone through spells where I think, 'What am I doing wrong?' "

After graduating from Louisiana State University, Amoss spent two years as an assistant trainer. During his first year, while working for Larry Robideaux, Amoss got to know one of Robideaux's grooms, Frank Bernis.

When Amoss decided to begin training horses for himself in 1987, at age 26, he convinced Bernis to join him.

"I said, 'I've only got three horses, are you interested in working with me?' " Amoss said.

Bernis was only 19 at the time, but Amoss had confidence.

"Frank is a natural horseman, a god given talent," said Amoss. "There is no one out there who is better."

Twenty-two year later, the duo are still working together, and Amoss credits much of his success to Bernis's horsemanship.

"He's as important of a member as you can have," said Amoss. "I have the luxury of bouncing opinions off of him."

Bernis was raised in Haughton, La., with his family heavily involved in the horse business. His father, Glynn Bernis. was a jockey and a trainer at Louisiana Downs, and his mother worked in the accounting department at the track.

Although his father was a rider, Bernis cuts a large figure on the Fair Grounds backside. He is known for his innate ability to identify many of the horses at Fair Grounds solely by sight.

"I just remember horses," said Bernis. "I was born with a pitchfork in one hand, and an eating fork in the other."

The Amoss barn looks more loaded than usual as the big stakes days of the Fair Grounds meet come into focus.

On Jan. 23, the barn will start three horses in stakes, with the 3-year-old colt Ron the Greek pointed toward the Lecomte and the filly Red Hot Buddha going in the Tiffany Lass. He will also send Oculuna in the Leggio.

"It's one of those days where I am either going to go home really bummed out or thinking I have something special in the barn," said Amoss.