Getting to know Breeders’ Cup Classic hopeful Tom’s d’Etat

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Many of the top Longines Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders through the years have come out of the Triple Crown races and proven themselves to be elite 1 ¼-mile racehorses either as 3-year-olds or sometimes not until they are 4 or 5. Others, like Tom’s d’Etat, require a little more patience.

Now 7 years old, the bay horse by leading sire Smart Strike had shown promise early in his career with several runaway victories, but in the last eight months Tom’s d’Etat has emerged as a truly elite older male.

Race Résumé

Unplaced in his career debut in a one-mile turf race, Tom’s d’Etat has raced exclusively on dirt since that inauspicious start and has finished in the top three in 14 of 17 subsequent races.

He earned his first win by four lengths in August 2016 at Saratoga but did not race again for 7 ½ months when he won again by 3 ¾ lengths March 20, 2017 at Fair Grounds. After a fourth at Churchill Downs in May of that year, he paired allowance wins by 2 ¼ lengths and nine lengths before another extended break. This time, he did not return to the races for more than 15 months.

The flashes of brilliance continued upon his return, however, as he won a November 2018 allowance-optional claiming race at Churchill Downs and followed with a 3 ¼-length victory in the Tenacious Stakes in December at Fair Grounds in his stakes debut.

After a ninth-place finish in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes, Tom’s d’Etat again went to the sidelines for a few months, but since then he has strung together eight quality races in the last 14 months for trainer Al Stall Jr.

Included in the stretch were back-to-back wins to close his 6-year-old campaign in the Grade 2 Hagyard Fayette Stakes at Keeneland in October by 4 ¼ lengths for his first graded stakes score and a breakthrough Grade 1 win in the 2019 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare in November at Churchill Downs.

Tom’s d’Etat’s powerful 3 ¼-length runaway in the Clark proved he could duplicate a top effort against strong competition. While he had shown he was capable of putting up big speed figures earlier in his career, the 116 Equibase Speed Figure he earned for the Fayette and 113 for the Clark were promising, as were the 105 and 104 Beyer Speed Figures he earned for those races respectively.

The success has continued in 2020 as Tom’s d’Etat won the Oaklawn Mile Stakes at Oaklawn Park with an explosive late rally on April 11 in his season debut and then romped by 4 ¼ lengths in the prestigious Stephen Foster Stakes June 27 at Churchill to extend his stakes winning streak to four.

“It was just an unbelievable day on Saturday,” Stall said. “To draw off like that, and almost break the track record, was unreal. He ran a sub 36-second final three-eighths. You don’t see many route horses in the country that are able to do that, especially as geared down as he was in the final stages.”

Indeed, Tom’s d’Etat ran a heck of a race that looked as good on the screen as it did on paper with a 109 Beyer Speed Figure, 116 Equibase Speed Figure, 112 BrisNet rating, and eye-catching 129 TimeForm US speed rating. Those are serious racehorse speed figures.

“I think the most important thing is he’s had the chance to get in form by being in steady training for about 18 months and get a bunch of races strung together,” Stall said after the Stephen Foster victory. “He enjoyed his freshening at the Fair Grounds this winter, and he couldn’t have done any better. Oaklawn couldn’t have been any better, so I feel like we’re in good shape going forward into the rest of this year. He’s in pretty good shape, and this race is only the second race back.”

Tom’s d’Etat is versatile enough to press the pace, stalk the pace, or close from farther back depending upon the circumstances as we’ve seen in just his two starts this year for Gayle Benson’s G M B Racing. Benson is the principal owner of the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

In the Oaklawn Mile, the pace was swift through a half-mile in :46.09 and Tom’s d’Etat was more than seven lengths back at that juncture, but he had plenty of late punch to reel in Grade 1 winner Improbable late. In the Stephen Foster, Tom’s d’Etat raced within a length of an easy half-mile in :48.13 and just powered clear in the stretch with a final eighth of a mile in 12 seconds flat to live up to his 13-10 favoritism. A final furlong that fast rarely occurs in two-turn dirt races like the 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster, and runner-up By My Standards was coming off a strong win in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap.

“He’s a great athlete. If he needs to be close, he breaks running, and if the pace is fast, he can back off and listen to the rider,” Stall said. “He’s a smart horse, he’s an athletic horse, and he’s what a Grade 1 horse is supposed to be.”

The only question Tom’s d’Etat still needs to answer is whether he can deliver an elite race at 1 ¼ miles, a distance he has not competed at since the second race of his career. I’m not especially concerned about that given he has won six of nine starts at 1 1/8 miles and seemed to have plenty of gas in the tank late in the Stephen Foster.

It seems rare to see a racehorse hitting his peak stride during his 7-year-old season in 2020, but such is the case with Tom’s d’Etat who looks like a rising star on the road to the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Pedigree

Tom’s d’Etat is by two-time leading sire Smart Strike, whose offspring have thrived on turf, dirt, and synthetic surfaces as evidenced by his 145 lifetime stakes winners and 73 group or graded stakes winners through June 29. Smart Strike is the sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin as well as 2007 champion turf male English Channel, two-time champion Lookin At Lucky, 2011 champion 2-year-old filly My Miss Aurelia, and Canadian Horse of the Year winners Soaring Free and Never Retreat.

Bred by SF Bloodstock, Tom’s d’Etat is out of Grade 3-placed stakes winner Julia Tuttle, by leading sire Giant’s Causeway. Julia Tuttle was a stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles and her dam (mother) – Tom’s d’Etat’s grandam (maternal grandmother) – Candy Cane is a full-sibling (same dam, same sire) to unbeaten and record-setting 2003 Pacific Classic Stakes winner Candy Ride, now a successful sire himself.

Pegasus races planned for Gulfstream and Santa Anita in 2024

Horse racing on Opening day of the winter-spring meet at Santa Anita Park.
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HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – After seven Pegasus World Cup events, it’s evidently time for change.

1/ST Racing, which has hosted the entirety of the Pegasus series to this point at Gulfstream Park, is planning for two Pegasus days in 2024 – one at Gulfstream and the other at Santa Anita. Details aren’t finalized and it’s unclear how it would fit in the racing calendar, but 1/ST is planning for both dirt and turf Pegasus races as part of the Santa Anita program.

Gulfstream played host to the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational on the dirt Saturday, along with the $1 million Pegasus Turf and the $500,000 Pegasus Filly and Mare Turf.

“I’d really love to see that we bring it to the West Coast,” 1/ST President and CEO Belinda Stronach said. “That will probably happen in 2024. What we did this year for 2023 was said, `OK, we have a number of great race days, let’s coordinate those better and call it the 1/ST Racing Tour and recognize great achievements within our own footprint.”

Saturday marked the first stop on that new 1/ST Racing Tour. Along with some of the biggest race days at 1/ST tracks – like Florida Derby day at Gulfstream on April 1, Santa Anita Derby day on April 8 and the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 20 – there are a pair of days where the tour will be running simultaneously.

This coming Saturday, Gulfstream will play host to the Holy Bull while Santa Anita has the Robert B. Lewis – both of them Kentucky Derby prep races.

And on March 4, Gulfstream has the Fountain of Youth, another major Derby prep, while San Anita has the Big Cap. Plans call for coordinated post times at those two tracks on those days to provide the best racing action every 20 minutes, as well as some unique betting options.

“We can never rest on our laurels,” Stronach said. “We have to keep moving forward. We have a great team that’s really committed.”

The main Pegasus race is one of the biggest-paying races in North America. Art Collector claimed about $1.8 million from a $3 million purse with his win on Saturday. In 2022, only the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic and $4 million Breeders’ Cup Turf featured bigger prizes among U.S. races, and the $3 million Pegasus purse is equal to the one offered last year at the Kentucky Derby.

Regardless of what happens with the Santa Anita plan for future Pegasus events, Stronach insisted Gulfstream will continue having Pegasus days. There has even been talk about Gulfstream playing host to Breeders’ Cup races again, something that hasn’t happened since 1999.

“This is staying here in Miami,” Stronach said. “Pegasus has a home here in Miami. We can’t move Pegasus from Miami. We have great partners here and it’s more than just a day now. We have deep roots here in Miami.”

Arabian Knight earns Baffert record 6th win in Southwest

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HOT SPRINGS, Ark. – Arabian Knight won the $750,000 Southwest Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths at Oaklawn, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record sixth victory in the race.

The colt came into the Kentucky Derby prep as one of the most highly touted 3-year-olds in the country. Arabian Knight, who was purchased for $2.3 million as a 2-year-old, was making his second career start and first on a sloppy track in front of 27,000 fans in Arkansas.

“These good horses are hard to come by,” said Baffert, who was on hand in Hot Springs. “We’ve had a lot of luck here at Oaklawn, so it was nice to have a horse like this.”

However, Arabian Knight was ineligible to earn the Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the winner because Baffert has been suspended for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The penalty, which ends shortly after this year’s Derby on May 6, stems from Medina Spirit’s medication violation after the colt won the 2021 Derby and was later disqualified. Baffert is challenging the ban in court.

Ridden by John Velazquez, Arabian Knight ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:43.50 and paid $2.80 to win. He is 2-0 and has career earnings of $544,275.

“He ran 1:43 and change, that’s racehorse time and he did it without taking a deep breath,” Baffert said. “This was a big effort.”

Red Route One closed from last to finish second, and Frosted Departure was third. Sun Thunder was fourth, followed by Jace’s Road, Corona Bolt, El Tomate and Western Ghent.

At Gulfstream in Florida, Baffert’s entry Defunded finished second in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup, beaten by 4 1/2 lengths by Art Collector on Saturday.