LOUISVILLE, KY – G M B Racing’s Tom’s d’Etat ruled the day with a near-record performance to handily win Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Stakes (G2) at Churchill Downs.
The Stephen Foster is a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, with Tom’s d’Etat receiving an automatic berth in the Longines Classic at Keeneland this November.
Breaking alertly from post 5 under Miguel Mena as the 6/5 favorite, Tom’s d’Etat was much more forwardly-placed than usual, sitting in the catbird seat as Pirate’s Punch set the pace. While Tom’s d’Etat watched closely from second, Pirate’s Punch posted opening fractions of :23.89 and :48.13.
Nearing the top of the far turn, Mena allowed Tom’s d’Etat to sidle up alongside the pacesetter and held a slim advantage while cornering. At the top of the stretch, Tom’s d’Etat strode to a clear lead and kicked away under a hand ride.
Mena checked to make sure he was rolling as strongly as he thought, then crossed confidently in a final time of 1:47.30 that was 0.02 seconds slower than Victory Gallop’s course record that was set in 1999. The Al Stall, Jr., trainee was 4 1/4 lengths the best at the wire.
“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, the horse’s regular exercise jockey who earned the mount after frequent rider Joel Rosario was unavailable. “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 9/5 second choice By My Standards was no match for the winner but was 2 3/4 lengths clear of Silver Dust, who finished third.
Multiplier, Owendale, Fearless, Pirate’s Punch, and Alkhaatam completed the order of finish.
Tom’s d’Etat’s win was his fourth straight, all at the stakes level, to improve his overall record to 18-11-2-1 with $1,627,272 earned. The 7-year-old Smart Strike offspring has been carefully handled throughout his career and is seemingly running better than ever.
“We knew coming into this race he was a fresh horse but ran so well fresh in the past,” said Stall, Jr., trainer of the 2010 Stephen Foster winner Blame, who later defeated Zenyatta in that fall’s 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 … 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 returned $4.60 to win, $2.80 to place, and $2.60 to show. By My Standards brought back $3.20 to place and $3 to show, while Silver Dust paid $6.40 to show.