"He's probably dreaming about his favorite food, peppermint
candy," said Greg Bensel, vice president of communications
for the New Orleans Saints.
On Thanksgiving Day, when the starting gate opens for the 10th race
of a new Fair Grounds season, Pulaski County will not be napping in
a six-furlong test for 2-year-old maidens.
At least, that's the hope of Bensel and a group of 15 flying the
colors of the one-horse Last Mango Racing Stable.
"Pulaski will be running," he vowed, "running to
win his first race, running to make a bunch of guys happy."
Among others, the guys include folks who, at the moment, would welcome
good news, a football coach, Sean Payton, a quarterback, Drew Brees,
and a general manager, Mickey Loomis.
As for the most famous member of the Last Mango Stable, singer/songwriter
Jimmy Buffett, good news has been a given for the folk-rock stylist
who gave us "Margaritaville" and, later, "Last Mango
As Bensel tells it, the seed was planted last February, during
Super Bowl week, when Payton was in Miami to receive his award as
Coach of the Year. A longtime Saints fan, and part-time Monday morning
coach, Buffett not only hosted a Saints party on his yacht, he designed
a play for Payton to use the following week in Hawaii when Payton
would be coaching in the Pro Bowl. Fittingly, Buffett called it "Last
"The idea to put together a racing stable didn't really take
shape until later in the year, during the excitement generated by
the Triple Crown classics," Bensel said. "I started calling
around, and within a couple of days we had a group willing to invest
a small amount in something that would be fun for everyone."
To use the football analogy, it wasn't long before Bensel settled
on someone to fill the twin role of coach and GM, and that would be
Tom Amoss, a Fair Grounds regular and several-times leading trainer
at the track.
It wasn't until last month, with Bensel on the way to San Francisco
for the Saints-49ers game, that he came across a message on his
"Greg," it said, "I have the group's $50,000, and
I'm about to make an executive decision. If I don't hear from you
soon, there's a horse named Pulaski County in the third today at
Keeneland. Call me. If not, I'm going to make the claim for you
Moments later, Bensel is calling Amoss, telling him, "Since
none of us knows the difference between a gallop and a breeze, make
That is how Pulaski County became the sole occupant of the Last
Mango Racing Stable.
He's a gray/roan colt with an A-plus pedigree who remains winless
in five outings, mostly against quality opposition.
When Ron Jaworski, a prominent member of Last Mango Racing Stable,
heard the news that he owned a piece of Pulaski County, the onetime
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback and now TV analyst was overjoyed.
"Thank God we claimed a Polish horse," Jaworski said.
Later, when Amoss was addressing his "owners" on the
new claim, one of them posed a question he could only meet with
stare, and a long laugh.
The question: "If you're talking about galvanizing our horse
(the operative word is "gelding"), what does that cost
and how long is he out of commission?"
Which suggests there might be a song in there somewhere for Buffett.
Think about it. Coming to you from the Last Mango Racing Stable: "The
Night They Galvanized Pulaski County."
"I'm having a lot of fun with this group," Amoss said. "I'm
guessing, on Thursday, Pulaski County could be the most over-bet
horse in Fair Grounds history. One of those 15-to-1 shots that bet
to 2-to-1 because of the people involved. I just wish Jimmy Buffett
was here to join in the fun. Greg Bensel says the Last Mango Stable
is planning to donate a portion of their horse's winnings to the
SPCA. In horse racing, that may be a first."
Amoss learned one thing in a hurry. He heard the story about the
play Buffett drew up for Payton, a play Payton promised to call
on the first series in the Pro Bowl. Buffett's "Last Mango" was
a halfback pass thrown by Tiki Barber after taking a pitchout from
So what happened?
Barber threw a wounded duck. It was intercepted.