Multiple graded stakes winner Tom’s d’Etat, winner of the 2019 Clark (Grade 1) was installed as the even-money morning line favorite for Saturday, June 27’s $500,000 Stephen Foster Presented by Coca-Cola (Grade 2) at Churchill Downs.
A Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (Grade 1), the G M B Racing son of Smart Strike looks to make it four wins in a row following a graded stakes victory at Keeneland last October, his Clark victory in his most recent start in Louisville last November, and taking the Oaklawn Mile Stakes in Arkansas this April.
Stephen Foster one of four stakes races Saturday
The Stephen Foster, contested at 1 1/8 miles on the Churchill main track is the headliner of a quartet of stakes action closing out Saturday’s 11-race program.
The $100,000 Grade 3 Bashford Manor Presented by TwinSpires.com (Race 7) and the $200,000 Grade 2 Fleur de Lis presented by Coca-Cola (Race 8) precede the featured Foster (Race 10), while the $100,000 Grade 3 Regret Presented by TwinSpires.com (Race 11) will serve as the finale.
The first post for Saturday is 1 p.m. (all times Eastern) while the Stephen Foster is slated at 5:47 p.m.
Bettors will have enticing wagering pools to navigate including a $250,000-guaranteed Late Pick-5 pool. The 50-cent minimum bet will begin in Race 7 (4:12 p.m.) – a 5 1/2 furlong allowance event on the grass. The subsequent four races in the sequence are the Bashford Manor, Fleur de Lis, Stephen Foster and Regret.
Tom’s d’Etat invites comparisons with Blame
Trained by Al Stall, Jr., Tom’s d’Etat (17-10-2-1 with winnings of $1,326,572) last exited Churchill Downs following a 3 1/4-length triumph in last year’s $600,000 Clark. Now 7 years old, he enters Saturday’s Stephen Foster off that hotly contested victory in the April 11 $150,000 Oaklawn Mile.
“I’m not worried about (how) he’s going to show up in the Foster; he runs very well fresh,” Stall 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 has a history of success in the Stephen Foster. He won the race in 2010 with Blame prior to his victory over Zenyatta in that year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Stall’s 2010 Foster winner would go on to become the 2010 Champion Older Male. He would like to see his current star be mentioned in the same vein as Blame.
“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.”
Other horses to watch in the qualifier
As far as the pace scenario for the Foster, the likely frontrunner in the race may be graded stakes-placed Pirate’s Punch. Slated to be piloted by Mike Smith, the Bret Calhoun-trained Pirate’s Punch has been forwardly-placed in nine of his last 11 races.
Allied Racing Stable’s multiple graded stakes winner By My Standards could follow closely behind Pirate’s Punch.
“It’s going to be an interesting setup,” 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, trained by Todd Pletcher) 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.”
Stephen Foster race field and odds
The full field for the Stephen Foster (including jockey, trainer and morning line odds from the rail out):
- Fearless (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 12-1)
- Pirate’s Punch (Mike Smith, Grant Forster, 15-1)
- Alkhaatam (Declan Cannon, Danny Peitz, 30-1)
- Multiplier (Tyler Gaffalione, Peter Miller, 10-1)
- Tom’s d’Etat (Mena, Stall, even-money)
- By My Standards (Gabriel Saez, Calhoun, 5-2)
- Silver Dust (Beschizza, Calhoun, 10-1)
- Owendale (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox, 4-1).
The Stephen Foster and the Fleur de Lis will be broadcast live on NBC from 5 to 6 p.m.