Tom’s d’Etat heads local connections on Breeders’ Cup weekend
It was 10 years ago Friday that New Orleans native Al Stall Jr. sent out Blame to a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
A decade later, Stall has another Classic contender with even more local ties as horse racing’s version of the Super Bowl begins its two-day run Friday afternoon at Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Kentucky.
Grade I winner Tom’s d’Etat is at 6-1 on the morning line for the Classic, the final race of the weekend with post time at 4:18 p.m. CST Saturday.
Running in the colors of Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson’s GMB Racing, Tom’s d’Etat – who breaks from post No. 4 in a field of 10 in the Classic – last raced in the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga on Aug. 1. In that race, Tom’s d’Etat stumbled badly at the start but still finished third.
That snapped a four-race winning streak for the 7-year-old son of Smart Strike, a streak which began at Keeneland last October in the Grade II Fayette and included a pair of impressive triumphs at Churchill Downs in the Grade I Clark and the Grade II Stephen Foster.
Improbable, who finished second to Tom’s d’Etat in April at Oaklawn Park but has won three straight races since then, is the 5-2 morning-line favorite in the Classic, which has a $6 million guaranteed purse. Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law is the 3-1 second choice.
Another New Orleanian, Dallas Stewart, has a Classic horse with longshot Title Ready. Stewart is no stranger to sending out longshots in big races, however, hitting the board in Triple Crown races with the likes of Macho Again, Golden Soul, Commanding Curve and Tale of Verve, all of whom finished second at odds of better than 30-1.
Stall’s high school classmate at Isidore Newman, Tom Amoss, sends out Serengeti Empress in the Filly and Mare Sprint, the first Breeders’ Cup race on Saturday’s card.
Serengeti Empress, who won the Kentucky Oaks in May 2019, finished third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Distaff. Amoss has focused the 4-year-old on sprinting in the second half of 2020, and she responded with a win in the Grade I Ballerina at Saratoga in August and a second-place finish by a nose in the Derby City Distaff at Churchill Downs in September.
That second-place finish in her last start pushed Serengeti Empress’ career earnings above $2 million.
Louisiana native jockeys, all from the Acadiana area, will be well represented over the weekend.
Brian Hernandez Jr., who has a Classic win to his credit aboard Fort Larned in 2012, has six mounts in the two days, and his younger brother Colby gets his first Breeders’ Cup mount aboard Just Might in the Turf Sprint.
Corey Lanerie has four mounts, including Title Ready for Stewart and Bell’s the One for longtime Fair Grounds trainer Neil Pessin in the Filly and Mare Sprint.
Robby Albarado, a seven-time leading jockey at Fair Grounds, has a pair of Breeders’ Cup mounts, including Preakness winner Swiss Skydiver in Saturday’s Distaff.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…