Tom’s d’Etat delivered a brilliant performance in Saturday’s 39th running of the $500,000 Stephen Foster presented by Coca-Cola (Grade II) at Churchill Downs as the 7-year-old horse collected his fourth consecutive stakes win while defeating By My Standards by 4 ¼ lengths and clocking 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.30 – just .02 off Victory Gallop’s 1999 track and stakes record.
Trained by Al Stall Jr. and owned by Gayle Benson’s G M B Racing and named for her late husband Tom Benson of New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans fame, Tom’s d’Etat sat just behind Pirate’s Punch, who led the field of eight older horses through fractions of :23.89 and :48.13. Midway around the far turn with three furlongs to run, jockey Miguel Mena asked Tom’s d’Etat to poke his head in front. Under a hand ride, Tom’s d’Etat drew off in the stretch and was utterly superior as By My Standards attempted to close ground.
“I knew he was a lot of fun to ride him in the morning but didn’t realize how much fun he was in the afternoon,” said Mena, who was given an opportunity to ride Tom’s d’Etat when regular jockey Joel Rosario opted to ride champion Uni (GB) to a third-place finish in the $250,000 Just a Game (GI) at Belmont Park in New York. “I owe everything to Al for giving me the opportunity to ride such an impressive horse. He was going along so easy and I just asked him for his attention a little bit at the top of the lane and I didn’t even have to really step on the gas.”
The final time for Tom’s d’Etat, last fall’s Grade I Clark winner, was :01.69 faster than impressive 8 ¼-length Fleur de Lis (GII) winner Midnight Bisou, the 2019 Champion Older Dirt Female.
The lofty $300,700 first prize lifted the classy bay Kentucky-bred’s earnings to $1,627,272 from a record of 11-2-1 in 18 starts. Also, the victory in the Stephen Foster, a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Classic Division” race, earned Tom’s d’Etat a guaranteed spot in the starting gate for the $7 million Longines Classic (GI), which is scheduled for Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Also, his connections will have all Breeders’ Cup pre-entry and entry fees covered and receive a travel award up to $10,000.
Tom’s d’Etat rewarded his backers with mutuels of $4.60, $2.80 and $2.60 as the 6-5 betting choice. By My Standards, with Corey Lanerie aboard, returned $3.20 and $3 as the 9-5 second choice. Silver Dust, another 2 ¾ lengths back in third under Adam Beschizza, paid $6.40 to show.
Multiplier, Owendale, Fearless, Pirate’s Punch and Alkhaatam completed the order of finish.
Tom’s d’Etat has won five of his last six starts, including four stakes wins in a row. Previously he won the $200,000 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland on Oct. 29; the $600,000 Clark presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) at Churchill Downs on Nov. 29; and $150,000 Oaklawn Mile at Oaklawn Park on April 11.
“We knew coming into this race he was a fresh horse but ran so well fresh in the past,” said Stall, who also won the Stephen Foster in 2010 with Blame, who’d go on to defeat Horse of the Year Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. “This will set him up to be in good shape for the rest of the year. I think he’ll benefit a lot from this race but we’ve sort of been waiting for this horse to get into form with the breaks in his races but he’s finally got there. That was a very impressive performance today.”
Tom’s d’Etat, third in last year’s Stephen Foster behind Seeking the Soul and Quip, joined Honor Medal (1988) as the oldest Stephen Foster winner at age 7.
Tom’s d’Etat is a son of Smart Strike out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Julia Tuttle and was bred by SF Bloodstock LLC.
Saturday’s handle on the 11-race race card totaled $13,801,111, which is the fifth-largest betting total for racing at Churchill Downs on days that did not include the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks or Breeders’ Cup.
Sunday’s nine-race closing day card includes a $48,629 carryover in the 20-cent Single 6 Jackpot (Races 4-9) and a $13,826 carryover in the $1 Super Hi-5 on the final race of the day. Because it’s closing day of the 27-day meet, there will be a mandatory payout in both pools.
First post Sunday is 1 p.m. ET.
STEPHEN FOSTER QUOTES
Miguel Mena, jockey of TOM’S D’ETAT (winner): “I knew he was a lot of fun to ride him in the morning but didn’t realize how much fun he was in the afternoon. I owe everything to Al for giving me the opportunity to ride such an impressive horse. He was going along so easy and I just asked him for his attention a little bit at the top of the lane and I didn’t even have to really step on the gas.”
Al Stall Jr., trainer of TOM’S D’ETAT (winner): “We knew coming into this race he was a fresh horse but ran so well fresh in the past. This will set him up to be in good shape for the rest of the year. I think he’ll benefit a lot from this race but we’ve sort of been waiting for this horse to get into form with the breaks in his races but he’s finally got there. That was a very impressive performance today.”
Bret Calhoun, trainer of BY MY STANDARDS, SILVER DUST (runner-up and third): “I sort of knew when (Pirate’s Punch) got out on the lead so easy we could be in trouble. They really didn’t go fast at all and down the backside when the pace sort of slowed down we just weren’t able to catch Tom’s d’Etat. I’m very proud of both of our horses.”
Tyler Gaffalione, jockey of MULTIPLIER (fourth): “For coming back as quickly as he did, he ran a fantastic race.”
Brad Cox, trainer of OWENDALE (fifth): “Certainly the pace scenario didn’t help our cause today.”
Mike Smith, jockey of PIRATE’S PUNCH (seventh): “I had him where we wanted to be. I was a little surprised they came to us as early as they did.”Dan Peitz, trainer of ALKHAATAM (eighth)