Seasoned Tom’s d’Etat Favored for Saturday’s Stephen Foster
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – G M B Racing’s 2019 Clark (Grade I) winner Tom’s d’Etat was installed as the even-money morning line favorite for Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster presented by Coca-Cola (Grade II) – a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event for the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). The 1 1/8-mile Stephen Foster is the headliner of a stakes quartet on Saturday’s 11-race program. The day of racing also will feature the $200,000 Fleur de Lis presented by Coca-Cola (GII), $100,000 Regret presented by TwinSpires.com (GIII) and $100,000 Bashford Manor presented by TwinSpires.com (GIII). First post is 1 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Stephen Foster is slated at 5:47 p.m.
Along with the spectacular action on the racetrack, bettors will have large wagering pools to tackle including a $250,000-guaranteed Late Pick 5 pool. The 50-cent bet will begin in Race 7 (4:12 p.m.) – a 5 ½ furlong turf allowance event. The next four races will be the Bashford Manor, Fleur de Lis, Stephen Foster and Regret, respectively. For free past performances, visit www.churchilldowns.com/handicapping.
Tom’s d’Etat (17-10-2-1—$1,326,572) has won four of his last five starts including a 3 ¼-length score in last year’s $600,000 Clark (GI). The now 7-year-old son of Smart Strike enters Saturday’s Stephen Foster following a hard-fought victory in the April 11 $150,000 Oaklawn Mile.
“I’m not worried about he’s going to show up in the Foster; he runs very well fresh,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said. “This race will feed us into the rest of the year, which looks like it’s setting up well with the schedules in New York and elsewhere. … This is his home track and has a visual of it in front of his stall, sort of like Blame did.” Stall is not a stranger to success in the Stephen Foster. He won the race in 2010 with the aforementioned Blame prior to his victory over Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Blame would go on to become the 2010 Champion Older Male. “We’re trying to get (Tom’s d’Etat) to the Blame level,” Stall said. “Both of these horses have a ton of class and ability.”
One of the challenges facing handicappers for Saturday’s Stephen Foster is the probable pace scenario. The likely frontrunner in the race could be the graded stakes placed Pirate’s Punch. Ridden by Mike Smith, Pirate’s Punch has secured the early lead in nine of his last 11 races. A horse that could be tracking from just off the early lead could be Allied Racing Stable’s multiple Grade II winner By My Standards.
“It’s going to be an interesting setup,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “Pirate’s Punch looks like he could be the controlling pace of the race. What’s interesting is the horse from the rail (Fearless) who has shown speed back in his form in his maiden race and second start. Since then, he’s sort of been relegated off the pace.
“(By My Standards) has shown every positive development from his three-year-old season to this year. He’s a very talented racehorse and we saw that with his strong campaign last year. He’s just bigger and stronger this year.”
The complete field for the Stephen Foster (post positions with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):
1. Fearless (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 12-1)
2. Pirate’s Punch (Mike Smith, Grant Forster, 15-1)
3. Alkhaatam (Declan Cannon, Danny Peitz, 30-1)
4. Multiplier (Tyler Gaffalione, Peter Miller, 10-1)
5. Tom’s d’Etat (Mena, Stall, even-money)
6. By My Standards (Gabriel Saez, Calhoun, 5-2)
7. Silver Dust (Beschizza, Calhoun, 10-1)
8. Owendale (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 4-1).
The Stephen Foster has had a strong influence on the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Horse of the Year honors. Four horses used victories in the Stephen Foster as part of their résumés in Horse of the Year campaigns: Black Tie Affair (1991), Saint Liam (2005), Curlin (2008) and Gun Runner (2017). In addition, two runner-ups were crowned Horse of the Year: Mineshaft (2003) and Wise Dan (2012). Also, Awesome Again (1998) and Blame (2010) completed same-year Foster-Classic doubles. Fort Larned won the Classic in 2012, and won the Foster the following year prior to a fourth-place run in his bid for a second Classic win.
Serengeti Empress & Midnight Bisou Faceoff in the Fleur de Lis
Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Serengeti Empress is ready for her showdown versus 2019 Champion Midnight Bisou in Saturday’s $200,000 Fleur de Lis presented by Coca-Cola (GII) at Churchill Downs – a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In Distaff Division” race.
“If you want to talk about a challenge, this is it,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “We face a challenge with champion Midnight Bisou. We have great respect for her but we also have a ton of confidence in our filly. Her preparation has been great for this race and we’ll be ready.”
The speedy Serengeti Empress led every step of the way in last year’s Kentucky Oaks. The daughter of Alternation’s 3-year-old campaign included a narrow runner-up effort in the $500,000 Test (GI) and third-place finish in the Longines Distaff. In her 4-year-old campaign, Serengeti Empress was a convincing 6 ¼-length winner of the March 14 Azeri (GII).
The Fleur de Lis field from the rail out (with jockey, trainer and morning line odds):
1. Go Google Yourself (Brian Hernandez Jr., Paul McGee, 8-1)
2. Another Broad (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 12-1)
3. Chocolate Kisses (Declan Carroll, Mark Casse, 12-1)
4. Serengeti Empress (Joe Talamo, Amoss, 2-1)
5. Midnight Bisou (Mike Smith, Steve Asmussen, 3-5)
6. Red Dane (Corey Lanerie, Charlie LoPresti, 50-1)
7. Motion Emotion (Julien Leparoux, Richard Baltas, 15-1)
All horses will tote 120 pounds except Midnight Bisou and Serengeti Empress who will carry 124. The Fleur de Lis – which means “Flower of the Lily” and honors the French symbol that is incorporated into the city of Louisville’s Flag – will be run as Race 9 at 5:15 p.m. (all times Eastern).
Both the Stephen Foster and the Fleur de Lis will be broadcast live on NBC from 5-6 p.m.
Churchill Downs Press Release
Photo: Tom’s d’Etat wins the 2019 Clark. Credit: Coady Photography
Serengeti Empress (left) and Midnight Bisou faceoff in the Fleur de Lis on Saturday. Credit: Coady Photography