Tez honors NFL Hall of Famer in first career start

When Tez steps onto the track Tuesday, Aug. 7 for his first career race, it will mean more than a trip to the winner’s circle for his connections, GMB Racing. The two-year-old grey colt is named in honor of the beloved NFL player Cortez Kennedy who passed away unexpectedly last year. Kennedy never wore a New Orleans Saints jersey but the impact he made on the ownership and management of the New Orleans Saints organization, which is owned by Gayle Benson, owner of GMB Racing, was special. It’s a small way for those involved with the stable to remember their friend, who passed away at such a young age of 48.

Tez makes his first start Tuesday, Aug. 7 carrying a name that honors NFL player Cortez Kennedy for GMB Racing Stable. (Photo by Tammy Knox)

Kennedy played his entire career for the Seattle Seahawks. He was noted by all accounts as a vital part of the organization, both on and off the field. The defensive tackle made eight Pro Bowls and started in 153 games during his tenure in Seattle. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and his number (96) was retired by the Seahawks. Following his retirement in 2000, “Tez” stayed very connected to football and even served as an advisor for a short time for the New Orleans Saints organization.

“Cortez Kennedy never played for the Saints, but he was very close friends with the Bensons (Gayle and Tom), the general manager, Mickey Loomis, and myself,” said Greg Bensel, senior vice president of the New Orleans Saints and racing manager de facto of GMB Racing. “We always try to name our yearlings with a certain theme. In 2017, we lost two really great guys from the NFL, Will Smith, in a horrific murder, and Cortez Kennedy due to a heart attack. We named one colt Ninety One, which was Will’s number, and the other one Tez, which was what everyone called Cortez Kennedy.”

GMB Racing was formed in 2014 with Gayle Benson’s initials. Since that time, the stable has purchased many yearlings. The stable used a theme in 2015 to name horses after Tom Benson, which included Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready. The next year, a lot of the 2016 class was named in honor of military service, which included Lone Sailor. The latest set of yearlings purchased by GMB Racing will honor a few of their NFL ties.

Tez, the racehorse, has a playful personality, as shown with caretaker Amicar Vasquez in the Tom Amoss barn at Indiana Grand. (Photo by Tammy Knox)

“Tez was a kind, loving teddy bear of a guy,” added Bensel. “It’s a way for us to honor both of those guys.”

Tez the racehorse was purchased out of the Keeneland Yearling Sales last September by Trainer Tom Amoss for $130,000. He has been part of the Churchill Downs string for Amoss this summer and recently shipped to Indiana Grand for his first start.

“We bought him at the sale last September and he’s been with us since then,” said Amoss. “We sent him to the farm we send all our yearlings to in Florida and brought him to Churchill in May. He’s a horse that has learned as he went.”

After his last work at Churchill Downs, Amoss felt it was time to get him in a race. The surface didn’t really matter to Amoss, it was more about the best fit for the Kentucky bred son of The Factor.

“The Factor has had a lot of grass horses,” added Amoss. “It was really a matter of timing for this race. I’m not sure where he will go after this start. If it works out well, the hope is to race him at Keeneland in the fall.”

Tez will begin his first journey on the turf at Indiana Grand in the eighth race of the day, running five furlongs. He starts from post one at odds of 3-1 as the early morning line favorite. Tez will be ridden by Alex Canchari.

In true fashion for all young horses from the Amoss Stable, Tez came to the paddock for schooling Friday, Aug. 3 to get familiar with the surroundings. The playful colt has settled in well to Amoss’s Indiana string, which consists of 25 horses. Shane Jolivette oversees the Indiana operation for Amoss, who has horses racing at numerous venues across the United States.

Amoss, a five-time leading trainer at Indiana Grand, is currently leading the trainer standings once again in 2018 with 28 wins. With more than 3,500 career wins, the native of Louisiana set a record for most wins in one season (81) and most money earned ($1.5 million) in 2013 at the Shelbyville, Ind. track. Amoss is one of three trainers for GMB Racing, which is a multiple Graded Stakes winning owner.