LOUISVILLE, KY – G M B Racing’s multiple graded stakes winner Tom’s d’Etat is on the hunt for revenge in Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs after finishing third in last year’s edition.
The Stephen Foster is a 1 1/8-mile dirt event open to all horses ages 4 and up. This year’s running features eight runners with a good mix between seasoned veterans and up-and-coming 4-year-olds.
Few thoroughbreds in training can match the recent record that Tom’s d’Etat has strung together. Beginning last August at Saratoga, he won 4 of 5 starts, all at the stakes level, with his lone defeat coming by just 1 3/4 lengths in the Woodward (G1). He ended 2019 coasting home in the Clark Stakes (G1) under the Twin Spires, and his seasonal debut was an in-hand triumph in the Oaklawn Mile Stakes on April 11.
“He has a history of running well off layoffs,” said trainer Al Stall, Jr. “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.”
The winner of the Stephen Foster will receive an automatic position in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Longines Classic (G1) this fall at Keeneland. Pre-entry and entry fees will be paid and a nominator award of $10,000 will be given to the nominating person. Also, all Breeders’ Cup starters based outside of the state of Kentucky will receive a travel allowance of $10,000 if based in North America and $40,000 if based Internationally.
Let’s take a look at the full field:
#1 Fearless – The lightly-raced Ghostzapper gelding has shown improvement in each of his 5 starts, beginning with winning his debut late last December. His lone off-the-board effort was finishing sixth in the New Orleans Classic (G2) behind a pair of familiar rivals in this event, but he rebounded to finish second and first in his next two starts and looks better equipped for his second attempt against graded stakes company.
#2 Pirate’s Punch – Though he needed 6 starts and to run for a $30k tag before he could break his maiden, he has been a model of consistency ever since. His 9-4-2-3 record that began with his inaugural victory includes finishing third in a pair of Grade 3 events, and he most recently was third (beaten 3/4 of a length) in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park.
#3 Alkhaatam – Fresh off an impressive-looking victory while going 1 1/16 miles over the local strip on June 7, he makes his graded stakes return after finishing 11th in last year’s Stephen Foster. His most recent dirt efforts earned him back-to-back career-best Beyer speed figures of 91 and 92, so he appears to be improving at the right time.
#4 Multiplier – He came within a nose of defeating optional claiming foes at Santa Anita Park on June 20 after bobbling at the start of the 1 1/16-mile route. He attracted the services of jockey Tyler Gaffalione, the meet’s leading rider who was a neck away from piloting Multiplier to victory in the 1 1/4-mile Santa Anita Handicap (G1) back in March.
#5 Tom’s d’Etat – The likely favorite at post time rides a three-race win streak that includes the Clark Stakes (G1) over this course and distance Scheduling conflicts will prevent regular rider Joel Rosario from journeying away from New York for the mount, but Miguel Mena is a more than suitable replacement who has won 20 of his past 119 shared mounts with Stall, Jr., and is the horse’s regular exercise rider in the mornings.
#6 By My Standards – At least on paper, he represents the biggest threat to usurp Tom’s d’Etat claim for the top role, due in large part to his undefeated 2020 campaign that includes back-to-back 1 1/8-mile romps in the New Orleans Classic (G2) and the Oaklawn Handicap (G2). His only career off-the-board finish came when 12th in last year’s Kentucky Derby (G1), but he looks like a completely different horse this season.
#7 Silver Dust – A clear-cut example of how gelding a horse can improve his performance, he blossomed in the fall of 2018 and put together 6 straight starts where he finished either first or second. He has yet to win at this 1 1/8-mile distance from 5 starts, but he was a neck away from winning last year’s Lukas Classic (G3) over this course and distance, and trainer Bret Calhoun has won with 10 of his past 28 graded stakes starters.
#8 Owendale – He won a trio of Grade 3 events against fellow sophomores last year and was third in the Preakness Stakes (G1) before a poor trip cost him any chance in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), where he finished 10th. He rebounded to finish a rallying second in the Clark Stakes (G1) four weeks later, then won his 2020 debut in the Blame Stakes while going 1 mile on the local strip.
The Stephen Foster serves as race 10 on the Saturday card at Churchill Downs. The track will also host the Fleur de Lis Handicap (G2), a “Win and You’re In” for the Longines Distaff, as well as two other graded stakes races. The American-based Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series “Win and You’re In” events continue on July 4 at Belmont Park with the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap (G1) (Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile). The Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series is presented by America’s Best Racing.