HOT SPRINGS, AR (Friday, April 10, 2020) – Grade 1 winners Tom’s d’Etat and Improbable are among a full field of 14 entered in the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn.
Probable post time for the Oaklawn Mile, which goes as the ninth of 12 races, is 4:43 p.m. (Central). Racing begins Saturday, day 46 of the scheduled 57-day season, at 12:35 p.m.
Trained by Al Stall and owned by G M B Racing (Gayle Benson), millionaire Tom’s d’Etat will be making his first start since winning the $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.
“I’ve pointed for this day and he runs really, really well off the bench,” Stall said. “I mean, like, really well. His one-other-than (allowance) at the Fair Grounds after eight or nine months off a few years ago was close to the track record. His whatever allowance condition was around the (2018) Breeders’ Cup, a one-turn mile at Churchill – I think he’d been off 18 months – he ran a mile in 1:34 flat or something. He’s the kind of horse that has a little confidence off a freshening.”
Tom’s d’Etat, the 3-1 program favorite, is scheduled to break from post 3 under Joel Rosario and carry an equal top weight of 122 pounds. The year-end goal for Tom’s d’Etat, Stall said, is the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
Improbable, runner-up in the first division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) and $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) last year at Oaklawn, will be making his 4-year-old debut for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. Improbable had been entered in the $75,000 Santana Mile March 29 at Santa Anita before racing there was suspended. Improbable hasn’t started since finishing fifth in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita.
“He was in a perfect spot off the layoff, going a mile here,” Baffert said. “I was wanting to run him there and then take him to Oaklawn for the (Oaklawn) Handicap, but everything got messed up. Right now, I think everybody is thankful that they’re running somewhere.”
Improbable, betting favorite in last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness, is scheduled to break from post 14 under Drayden Van Dyke. Baffert said Saturday’s break will be critical since Improbable, the early 7-2 second choice, could get caught wide in the short run to the first turn (mile races at Oaklawn begin and end at the sixteenth pole).
“With him, the break is so important,” Baffert said. “But at Del Mar, I ran him a mile down there, and he was really impressive and he’s doing really well. It’s a tough race. But, hey, we’re just glad that we’re there and get to run.”
A flashy chestnut son of the late City Zip, Improbable scored his biggest career victory to date in the $350,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in December 2018 at Los Alamitos.
Millionaire multiple Grade 3 winner Mr. Money will be making his 4-year-old debut for trainer Bret Calhoun, who said he’s using the Oaklawn Mile as the colt’s first step toward a repeat appearance in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland. Mr. Money hasn’t started since finishing seventh in last year’s event.
“I think the mile would suit him really, really well, especially off the layoff,” Calhoun said of Saturday’s race. “I would say he’s going to be a little fresh and I think he’ll be forwardly placed. He’ll be in the first flight of horses, I would think.”
Another horse that figures to be forwardly placed is multiple stakes winner Pioneer Spirit for Robertino Diodoro, Oaklawn’s leading trainer this year. Pioneer Spirit cuts back to a mile after finishing third in the $350,000 Essex Handicap at 1 1/16 miles March 14.
“Tough race, especially for his running style,” Diodoro said. “It looks like half the field wants to be on the front end. I think they’re going to be throwing down some rapid times.”
Long Range Toddy, who beat Improbable in the Rebel, will be making his 4-year-old debut and first start for trainer Dallas Stewart. Fight On won the $150,000 Fifth Season Stakes last year at Oaklawn for trainer Doug O’Neill. Slick Silver, who will be making his stakes debut, has won six consecutive starts. He is the first scheduled career stakes starter for trainer Brittany A. Vanden Berg, a former jockey who started her first horse last year.
The Oaklawn Mile field from the rail out: Slick Silver, Chris Emigh to ride, 122 pounds, 30-1; Mr. Money, Gabriel Saez, 122, 4-1; Tom’s d’Etat, Joel Rosario, 122, 3-1; Pioneer Spirit, David Cohen, 122, 6-1; Boldor, Tyler Baze, 122, 20-1; M G Warrior, Joe Talamo, 119, 15-1; Snapper Sinclair, Florent Geroux, 122, 10-1; Bankit, Ricardo Santana Jr., 122, 15-1; Home Run Trick, Walter De La Cruz, 119, 30-1; Long Range Toddy, Brian Hernandez Jr., 122, 10-1; Lord Guinness, Ruben Fuentes, 117, 30-1; Kershaw, Fernando De La Cruz, 115, 20-1; Fight On, Ramon Vazquez, 122, 20-1; and Improbable, Drayden Van Dyke, 122, 7-2.
G1-Winner Tom’s d’Etat set for seasonal debut in Oaklawn Mile
Although his racing career has been limited to just 16 starts because of several physical setbacks, Tom’s d’Etat has bankrolled $1,236,572 for trainer Al Stall and owner G M B Racing LLC (Gayle Benson). The 7-year-old son of Smart Strike will be making his first start since winning the $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) at 1 1/8 miles Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.
Stall said Tom’s d’Etat has come a long way since he beat one horse in his career debut – a 1-mile grass race – on the Kentucky Oaks undercard May 6, 2016, at Churchill Downs.
Stall said he remembers having a horse for another client pointed for a two-turn maiden race Kentucky Derby week, and Tom’s d’Etat would represent more action for G M B since it had Mo Tom and Tom’s Ready in the Run for the Roses. So, Stall said he stuck Tom’s d’Etat, then 3, into the grass race because he possessed a grass pedigree – Smart Strike out of the Giant’s Causeway mare, Julia Tuttle.
That didn’t work.
“He did everything but stop and graze,” Stall said. “He didn’t know what foot to put down. He didn’t get anything out of it.”
It’s been nothing but dirt since for Tom’s d’Etat, a nine-time winner overall, including four stakes. Tom’s d’Etat, in his second lifetime start, flashed his potential with a runner-up finish in a 1 ¼-mile maiden special weights event May 30, 2016, at Churchill Downs under perennial Oaklawn riding champion Ricardo Santana Jr.
“Really, the first race of his life was that mile and a quarter race,” Stall said. “If you watch that race on video, he jumped in the bridle the second that gate opened and Ricardo was not wrestling with him, but he was underneath him the whole way. Ramsey (owner Ken Ramsey) won it with a Tapit who was like 4-5, who had run like four, five, six nice races. That was an unbelievably good race. I was like, ‘What do we have here?’ You can see the rest of it from there.”
Tom’s d’Etat broke his maiden at 1 1/8 miles in August 2016 at Saratoga and scored his first stakes victory in the $75,000 Tenacious at 1 1/16 miles in December 2018 at Fair Grounds. Ankle surgeries and a quarter-crack, Stall said, have led to lengthy gaps in the horse’s racing career.
“You get enough of that and it’s four months here, six months there,” Stall said. “I think he might have had two of them back-to-back – like he was ready to run once and he got hurt again. But going back to Breeders’ Cup at Churchill, a year and a half ago, let’s say it takes two months to get ready. He’s been, knock on wood, really, really good for a long time now, over a couple of years.”
Outside of his career debut, Tom’s d’Etat’s only other poor performance came when he finished ninth in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) January 2019 at Gulfstream Park. Stall passed on a return trip to the Pegasus and overseas treks to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates because he said Tom’s d’Etat’s 2020 racing schedule is being crafted for a peak performance in the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
“We just went to instant shutdown mode right after the Clark, but we didn’t send him anywhere,” said Stall, who trained 2010 Classic winner and champion older male Blame. “I kept him with me at the Fair Grounds and he had a perfect winter. I can’t think of anything that didn’t fall into our little plan. The goal was to start breezing easy on Feb. 1. If you look at his (past performances), I think he literally worked on Feb. 1. Like I said, I really didn’t back off on him. I walked him a couple of weeks, twice a day, an hour, two hours a day, jogged him. I didn’t stop on him. When he’s come back, it’s usually from an injury. But this time, he didn’t miss a lick and normally gets ready in about five, six, seven works. I think he ended up with like eight works, just because of the calendar. He’s good off the bench. He’s got plenty of enough in him. I think we’re good.”
Tom’s d’Etat has breezed once at Oaklawn since arriving late last month. The horse has been under the care of trainer Chelsey Coady, a former assistant and exercise rider for trainer Buff Bradley. Coady has been galloping Tom’s d’Etat leading up to the Oaklawn Mile.
“He’s the best,” Coady said.
Tom’s d’Etat, the 3-1 program favorite, was purchased for $330,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Benson also owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.
Edited Press Release
Photo: Tom’s d’Etat clips an early career win at the Fair Grounds. Credit: Fair Grounds