Tom and Chelsey’s Excellent Oaklawn Adventure

May 2, 2020

While the Covid-19 crisis has fractured the racing industry, the virus brought Tom’s d’Etat and trainer Chelsey Coady together in late March at Oaklawn, where the millionaire Grade 1 winner has taken the track’s 2019 promotional slogan to heart: “Stay Until May.”

Tom’s d’Etat returned to the work tab Friday morning, breezing a half-mile in :48.80 under Joe Talamo immediately after the first surface renovation break. Clockers caught the son of Smart Strike galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:01.40 over the fast track.

Al Stall had hoped to have Tom’s d’Etat back at Churchill Downs around May 1, but that was before the track postponed its stable opening, again. The new date, a staggered May 11 start, means the horse’s stay in Hot Springs will be extended several more days.

“I’m not sad,” Coady said. “I’m not complaining.”

Tom’s d’Etat had been scheduled to make his 2020 debut in the $200,000 Ben Ali Stakes (G3) April 11 at Keeneland before the Lexington, Ky., venue canceled its spring meeting. Stall then rerouted Tom’s d’Etat to Oaklawn, and because of restrictions, threw the keys to Coady, who regularly gallops the horse and saddled him for his victory in the $150,000 Oaklawn Mile April 11. Coady, 26, was an assistant/exercise rider for trainer Buff Bradley before going out on her own before the 2019 Oaklawn meet.

“I love him,” Coady said of Tom’s d’Etat. “I’ve been around a lot of great horses, definitely when I was an assistant. We had Brass Hat, Groupie Doll, The Player, Divisidero. But this horse, by far, is the most special. It’s cool. He’s great.”

Stall, who annually winters at Fair Grounds, said he had no reservations about sending Tom’s d’Etat to Coady because they knew each other and had a similar arrangement at the 2019 Oaklawn meet. Coady said she only had a handful of horses in 2019, so it was easier to oversee ones that Stall shipped into her barn to run.

“It never crossed my mind, as far as moving him from one place to another,” Stall said. “She’s a top rider and he’s easy to ride, anyway, and he had done all the heavy lifting at Fair Grounds, like company works and things like that. We actually breezed him one time at Oaklawn. We canceled our last workout due to track conditions the weekend before the race. She gets along with him great. You’ve obviously seen him galloping around with her all the time. We worked together last year, towards the end of Oaklawn. This is our second go-around.”

Tom’s d’Etat, in his 7-year-old debut, won the Oaklawn Mile by three-quarters of a length over Grade 1 winner Improbable. Despite a wide trip and jockey Joel Rosario never going to the whip, Tom’s d’Etat ran the distance over a wet-fast surface in a meet-best 1:35.83. Tom’s d’Etat was making his first start since winning the $600,000 Clark Stakes (G1) Nov. 29 at Churchill Downs.

Immediately following the Oaklawn Mile, Stall said Tom’s d’Etat would target still-scheduled races at the Churchill Downs spring meeting – $150,000 Blame Stakes May 30 and the $700,000 Stephen Foster (G2) June 27. Both races are 1 1/8 miles. The Stephen Foster is a “Win and You’re In” event for the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) Nov. 7 at Keeneland, the year-end goal for Tom’s d’Etat.

“Al’s such a great guy,” Coady said. “For someone to just trust another person with your best horse says a lot. He makes it easy. I’ve saddled a lot of good horses, but it was without spectators, too. There wasn’t a lot of pressure. The horse was just so classy. There was nothing to worry about. It was exciting. It felt like one of our wins.”

Coady spent approximately six years under Bradley before going out on her own and saddled her first winner (Fish Trappe Road) Aug. 9, 2019, at Belterra Park. Coady recorded her third career winner, and first at Oaklawn, with Arkansas-bred Babadook March 6. She also gallops her own horses.

“You can definitely feel a difference,” Coady said. “I have, personally, a lot of cheaper horses – some of them I love to pieces. But definitely horses like him (Tom’s d’Etat), he could do this … everybody says they could do it with a monkey on their back. He could do it with a monkey on his back. He is 7 years old and he knows everything he’s supposed to do. He knows himself. He knows his body. He knows what he’s capable of, but he’s smart enough that he never, ever does anything. He does just enough.”

Owned by G M B Racing (Gayle Benson), Tom’s d’Etat has a 10-2-1 record from 17 lifetime starts and earnings of $1,326,572. Benson owns the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans.

Coady said she began the Oaklawn meeting with roughly six horses and will leave with maybe eight when the 57-day season concludes Saturday. Along with Bradley, Coady said Stall has been instrumental in shaping her career. Coady also oversaw preparations and saddled multiple stakes winner Bobby’s Wicked One for Stall in the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) April 18. She continues to gallop Bobby’s Wicked One, too, because he’s in a holding pattern and unable to ship to Churchill Downs.

“Al’s very giving,” Coady said. “We share mutual owners and he’s more than happy to share the wealth, so to speak. He’s a great guy.”

Oaklawn Park Press Release 

Photo: Tom’s d’Etat after his win in the 2020 Oaklawn Mile. Credit: Coady Photography

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