(Tom’s d’Etat / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:

The Oaklawn Mile is only in its second year and has already attracted two Grade 1 winners in Improbable and two-turn specialist Tom’s d’Etat, who is scheduled to make his 2020 debut in the $150,000 race for older horses Saturday at Oaklawn.

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.

Finish Lines

There is no racing Sunday (Easter). … Jockey Stewart Elliott recoded a double Thursday to increase his career North American victory total to 4,947, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Call Me Derby and Town Champ, respectively, became the third and fourth three-time winners at the meet Thursday. Town Champ helped perennial Oaklawn champions Ricardo Santana Jr. (jockey) and Steve Asmussen (trainer) sweep the late daily double. …. Multiple stakes winner Bobby’s Wicked One is pointing for the $350,000 Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) for older horses April 18, trainer Al Stall said Wednesday afternoon. … By My Standards, winner of the $400,000 New Orleans Classic (G2) March 21 at Fair Grounds, is pointing for the $600,000 Oaklawn Handicap (G2) for older horses May 2, trainer Bret Calhoun said Wednesday afternoon.