Churchill Downs: Is Tom's d'Etat vulnerable in the Stephen Foster?

Profile Picture: Keeler Johnson

June 25th, 2020

Eight horses have been entered in Saturday’s $500,000 Stephen Foster H. (G2) at Churchill Downs, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

With five graded stakes winners in the field, the Stephen Foster has come up strong and competitive. The depth of the 1 1/8-mile race leads to a logical question — is the short-priced favorite, #5 Tom’s d’Etat (1-1), vulnerable to an upset?

Handicappers aren’t keen to play the chalk in competitive races, so you can bet many folks will be looking for chinks in Tom’s d’Etat’s armor. I suppose you could knock the fact that Tom’s d’Etat finished third in the 2019 Stephen Foster, when he weakened down the lane after he carved out the pace, and at 7 years old, he’s bound to start slowing down at some point.

But these are minor quibbles when you examine Tom’s d’Etat’s overall record. The son of Smart Strike has elevated his game since he switched to off-the-pace tactics last summer, when he rallied boldly to win the 2019 Clark H. (G1) by 3 1/4 lengths over the same track and distance as the Stephen Foster. Even better, he kicked off 2020 with a confident victory in the April 11 Oaklawn Mile, where he rallied to beat next-out Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) winner Improbable comfortably.

With seven straight triple-digit Brisnet Speed ratings, Tom’s d’Etat is the fastest horse in the Stephen Foster, and his 5-for-8 record racing 1 1/8 miles suggests this trip is his favorite distance. I see no reason to believe Tom’s d’Etat will be vulnerable in the Stephen Foster. He might be only now finding his best stride.

You can argue the only way Tom’s d’Etat loses the Stephen Foster is if the improving 4-year-old #6 By My Standards (5-2) turns out to be the better horse.

The winner of the 2019 Louisiana Derby (G2) and a competitor in the Kentucky Derby (G1), By My Standards is 3-for-3 this season and arrives at Churchill off back-to-back wins in the New Orleans Classic (G2) and Oaklawn H. (G2). He is 3-for-3 in 1 1/8-mile races and posted a career-best 105 Brisnet Speed rating in his last run, which is superior to the last few figures posted by Tom’s d’Etat.

Acknowledging the superiority of the two favorites, let’s box them in the top two slots of the exacta and trifecta, and add #7 Silver Dust (10-1) and #8 Owendale (4-1) underneath.

$9 exacta box: 5,6 ($18)
$3 trifecta: 5,6 with 5,6 with 7,8 ($12)
Total: $30

Good luck!