(Tom’s d’Etat wins the Clark Handicap / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
(Improbable before the 2019 KY Derby / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
From the Oaklawn Park Media Team:
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.”
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.
(Long Range Toddy / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
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.