G M B Racing’s 2019 Clark (Grade I) winner Tom’s d’Etat will take on Allied Racing Stable’s multiple Grade II winner By My Standards and Rupp Racing’s recent Blame Stakes hero Owendale in Saturday’s 39th running of the $500,000 Stephen Foster presented by Coca-Cola (GII) – the centerpiece of an action-packed program on the penultimate day of Churchill Downs’ 27-day Spring Meet.
The 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster is the headliner of a stakes quartet on Saturday’s 11-race program. The day of racing also will feature the $200,000 Fleur de Lis presented by Coca-Cola (GII), $100,000 Regret presented by TwinSpires.com (GIII) and $100,000 Bashford Manor presented by TwinSpires.com (GIII). First post is 1 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Stephen Foster is slated at 5:47 p.m.
The Stephen Foster will be broadcast on NBC as part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series. The one-hour broadcast, which will begin at 5 p.m., also will include the Fleur de Lis. The winner of the Stephen Foster will get an automatic berth to the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) while the winner of the Fleur de Lis will receive a berth to the Longines Distaff (GI). The Breeders’ Cup World Championships will be held on Nov. 6-7 at Keeneland.
Combined, the Stephen Foster field has won 41 of their 131 starts (31.2%), including 17 stakes events, and earned more than $5.5 million.
Tom’s d’Etat (17-10-2-1—$1,326,572) has won four of his last five starts including a 3 ¼-length score in last year’s $600,000 Clark (GI). The now 7-year-old son of Smart Strike enters Saturday’s Stephen Foster following a hard-fought victory in the April 11 $150,000 Oaklawn Mile.
“He has a history of running well off layoffs,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “He’s never really left form even after he was freshened at Fair Grounds this winter when we were getting him ready for the second half of the year. We had talked about the (one-mile) Blame as a prep but when the schedule was shuffled around, we just decided to stick with the plan to run him in the Foster.”
With the redesigned stakes schedule at Churchill Downs and NYRA, Tom’s d’Etat will be without his regular pilot Joel Rosario for the Stephen Foster due to his previous riding engagements in New York. Instead, Stall has installed one of his local go-to riders, Miguel Mena, to ride Tom’s d E’tat from post position No. 5.
Even though Stall opted to skip the Blame with Tom’s d’Etat, one of his main rivals in the Stephen Foster, Owendale, took full advantage of the May 23 one-mile race with a hard-closing half-length score under Florent Geroux. Trained by Brad Cox, Owendale (15-6-2-2—$1,129,185) will attempt to get the better of Tom’s d’Etat following his runner-up effort in last year’s Clark. Owendale, a 4-year-old son of Into Mischief, targeted some of the top 3-year-old events last year where he won a trio of Grade III events in the $200,000 Lexington, $500,000 Ohio Derby and $400,000 Oklahoma Derby. Owendale finished third in last year’s $1.5 million Preakness (GI).
“He was impressive coming back at one-turn (in the Blame),” Cox said. “He is a horse who I think will excel at two turns and his last race was just a prep as his first start of 2020. … He ran some tough races last year but appears to have taken a step forward now that he’s older.”
Geroux will be in the saddle on Saturday from post 8.
Another top older horse that entered the Stephen Foster is last year’s $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (GII) hero By My Standards (9-5-2-1—$1,281,910). Trained by Bret Calhoun, By My Standards returned as a 4-year-old in February at Fair Grounds with a convincing three-length victory in the $400,000 New Orleans (GII). By My Standards enters the Stephen Foster following a 1 ¾-length win in last month’s $600,000 Oaklawn Stakes (GII).
Gabriel Saez, who has been aboard By My Standards for all of his nine-career races, was named to ride in the Stephen Foster and drew post 6.
Also entered in the Stephen Foster is By My Standards’ stablemate Silver Dust (28-6-7-3—$787,577). Owned by Tom Durant, Silver Dust is a three-time graded stakes winner including a narrow victory in February’s $200,000 Mineshaft (GIII) at Fair Grounds. Silver Dust finished third, only three-quarters of a length behind Owendale, in the Blame.
Adam Beschizza will be aboard Silver Dust from post 7.
The Stephen Foster field is rounded out by Gulliver Racing, Craig Drager and Dan Legan’s multiple graded stakes placed Pirate’s Punch (14-4-2-1—$197,751), Shadwell Stable’s recent allowance winner Alkhaatam (15-4-0-2—$238,478), China Horse Club and WinStar Farm’s three-time winner Fearless (5-3-1-0—$118,520) and Wachtel Stable, George Kerr and Gary Barber’s Santa Anita Handicap (GI) runner-up Multiplier (28-3-5-4—$492,950), who was beaten on nose on Saturday at Santa Anita.
The complete field for the Stephen Foster (with jockey and trainer): Fearless (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher); Pirate’s Punch (Mike Smith, Grant Forster); Alkhaatam (Declan Cannon, Danny Peitz); Multiplier (Tyler Gaffalione, Peter Miller); Tom’s d’Etat (Mena, Stall); By My Standards (Saez, Calhoun); Silver Dust (Beschizza, Calhoun); and Owendale (Geroux, Cox).
The Stephen Foster has had a strong influence on the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Horse of the Year honors. Four horses used victories in the Stephen Foster as part of their résumés in Horse of the Year campaigns: Black Tie Affair (1991), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008) and Gun Runner (2017). In addition, two runner-ups were crowned Horse of the Year: Mineshaft (2003) and Wise Dan (2012). Also, Awesome Again (1998) and Blame (2010) completed same-year Foster-Classic doubles. Fort Larned won the Classic in 2012, and won the Foster the following year prior to a fourth-place run in his bid for a second Classic win.
Champion Victory Gallop owns the stakes and track record for 1 1/8 miles of 1:47.28, which was established in 1999.
Free Brisnet past performances will be available at www.churchilldowns.com/handicapping.