You can’t call what Tom’s d’Etat did in the Oaklawn Mile a coup d’etat, not when he was the 4/5 favorite. Nor can you call his previous two races revolutionary. All of which explains why Tom’s d’Etat is the even-money favorite for Saturday’s Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs.
The Grade 2, 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster headlines a four-stakes day at Churchill Downs. It also doubles as a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” challenge race for that event’s marquee contest, the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Churchill Downs is sweetening the pot for horseplayers with a $250,000 guaranteed Pick 5 pool that includes an allowance race and the four stakes: the Bashford Manor, Fleur de Lis, Stephen Foster, and Regret.
Tom’s d’Etat Enjoyed a Busy 2019
Given his current form, using Tom’s d’Etat in that Pick 5 isn’t a bad place to start. The 7-year-old is more crafty veteran than over-the-hill geezer in this group. He’s won four of his last five starts, including a 3 ¼-length victory in last year’s Grade 1 Clark Stakes at Churchill Downs, and running down Improbable in the Oaklawn Mile. That capped a year where Toms d’Etat ran seven times, winning three of his last four 2019 campaigns.
Keep in mind that he’s a 7-year-old horse with 17 career starts – seven of which came last year. Tom’s d’Etat has won 10 of his 17 career races, with two seconds and a third. He broke his maiden in his third start in a maiden special weight race at Saratoga in August 2016, but didn’t tackle stakes company until his ninth race. That came in his second and last race of 2018 when he won the Tenacious Stakes at Fair Grounds.
Time Off Pays Off for Tom’s d’Etat
Prior to 2019, Tom’s d’Etat ran only nine times in three years. So the fact he ran only once this year – that come-from-behind victory in the Oaklawn Mile – means Tom’s d’Etat is rounding into form. At least according to his trainer, Al Stall Jr.
“He has a history of running well off layoffs,” Stall told Darren Rogers of Churchill Downs. “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 Blame [Stakes] as a prep, but when the schedule was shuffled around, we just decided to stick with the plan to run him in the Foster.”
You can’t blame Stall for his optimism. Nor, can you blame him for considering the Blame as an option.
In fact, Stall won the Stephen Foster a decade ago with Blame, the legendary Thoroughbred who used that race as a springboard to one of the greatest upsets in recent history. That fall at Churchill Downs, Blame took down the iconic Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, denying the standout mare back-to-back Classic titles.
Stall Seeks to Embrace, not Deflect, Blame
Blame went on to win an Eclipse Award as Champion Older Male.
“This is his home track and (he) has a visual of it in front of his stall, sort of like Blame did,” Stall said. “We’re trying to get (Tom’s d’Etat) to the Blame level. Both of these horses have a ton of class and ability.”