It was all Tom’s d’Etat in Friday’s 145th running of the $600,000 Clark Presented by Norton Healthcare (Grade I) at Churchill Downs as the 4-5 favorite powered his way to front at the top of the stretch and drew clear in the stretch for a comfortable 3 ¼-length victory over 3-year-old Owendale, who closed from last to edge Mr Freeze for second.
Owned by Gayle Benson’s G M B Racing and named for her late husband Tom Benson, 6-year-old Tom’s d’Etat clocked 1 1/8 miles on a fast track in 1:48.84 in hand late under jockey Joel Rosario, who rode the winner for trainer Al Stall Jr.
The lofty $349,680 first prize lifted the bay Kentucky-bred’s earnings to millionaire status: $1,236,572 from a record of 9-2-1 in 16 starts.
“There are a lot of Grade I horses in this game that don’t make Grade I races,” said Stall, who also won the 2009 Clark with eventual 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) winner Blame. “To have a horse like this is extremely special for our entire barn. The care this horse gets day in and day out is amazing.”
Leaving the gate, Mr. Buff emerged as the early leader into the first turn with Mr. Freeze, Fact Finding and Major Cabbie in close pursuit. As Mr. Buff led the field of 11 horses through early quarter-mile splits of :23.02, :47.43 and 1:11.82, Tom’s d’Etat, who broke from post position No. 2, was covered up a couple lengths back of that front-running pack while racing down on the inside. Around the turn, Rosario moved Tom’s d’Etat into contention and he surged between Major Cabbie and the come-backing Bravazo while three-wide to quickly ascend into the lead with a quarter of a mile to run. He decisively coasted home down the lane and “conquered the Clark,” as track announcer Travis Stone declared.
“He ran unbelievable,” said Rosario, who added the Clark to his impressive career résumé. “It was such a good effort from him tonight to be able to sit behind the speed like that. He had such a strong kick in the stretch and won easily.”
Tom’s d’Etat rewarded his backers with mutuels of $3.80, $3 and $2.40. Owendale, with Florent Geroux up, returned $4.60 and $3.60 as the 5-1 second betting choice. Mr Freeze, under Robby Albarado, paid $4.40 to show.
California invader Draft Pick finished fourth and was followed by Major Cabbie, 2017 Clark winner Seeking the Soul, Mocito Rojo, Bravazo, Snapper Sinclair, Mr. Buff and Fact Finding. Pioneer Spirit was scratched.
This was the first Grade I win and second graded stakes victory of the year for Tom’s d’Etat, who previously won the $200,000 Fayette (GII) at Keeneland five weeks ago.
Stall said there are many options for Tom’s d’Etat that include the new $20 million Saudi Cup over 1 1/8 miles on Feb. 29, $12 million Dubai World Cup (GI) at 1 ¼ miles on March 28, major stateside races and, possibly, retirement for a stallion career at stud.
Tom’s d’Etat is son of Smart Strike out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Julia Tuttle and was bred by SF Bloodstock LLC.
Joel Rosario, jockey of TOM’S d’ETAT (winner): “He ran unbelievable. It was such a good effort from him tonight to be able to sit behind the speed like that. He had such a strong kick in the stretch and won easily.”
Al Stall Jr., trainer of TOM’S d’ETAT (winner): “There are a lot of Grade I horses in this game that don’t make Grade I races. To have a horse like this is extremely special for our entire barn. The care this horse gets day in and day out is amazing. I’m surprised he doesn’t gain more weight with how often he gets to graze. (The Pegasus World Cup) was on a funky racetrack in January. He ended up getting a pretty bad abcess in his hind and he just wasn’t right after the race. We saw some footage of him training and knew he wasn’t right. He was able to take care of himself in that race and we were able to give him the time off he needed to heal from the injury and doing right by him shows us how important that can be – look where we are now.”
Florent Geroux., jockey of OWENDALE (runner-up): “It was a good effort closing ground into that pace. I got him down to the rail at the end and he was able to rally for second. I don’t think we would’ve caught the winner but he ran a good effort.”
Brad Cox, trainer of OWENDALE (runner-up): “We’re very proud of him. He was able to rebound from the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) and run a very good effort today against this type of competition when he’s only 3-years-old.”
Dale Romans, trainer of MR FREEZE (third): “Thought we had them there for a second. He ran a great race against a really quality field. There are some nice horses in this race and (Tom’s d’Etat) is a really quality horse.”
Joe Talamo, jockey of DRAFT PICK (fourth): “It was a good effort and he tried the entire way.”
Dallas Stewart, trainer of SEEKING THE SOUL (sixth): “He just wasn’t good enough tonight.”