He is owned by a billionaire owner of the New Orleans Saints NFL football team, he’s named after her latest husband and he’s a 7-year-old gelding who is lightly raced, as he has needed much patience.
He is TOM’S D’ETAT, a son of Canadian star stallion Smart Strike, and this guy is considered the best older horse in training in North America. Fresh off his jaw-dropping win on the weekend at Churchill Downs, the gelding is now starting to finally get some real notice.
The multiple graded stakes-winner ran his win streak to four with a powerful score in Saturday’s Grade 2 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs. Tom’s d’Etat romped by 4 ¼-lengths over graded stakes winners By My Standards and Silver Dust in the Stephen Foster, where he tracked the early pace, made his bid approaching the three-eighths pole and drew off while registering a career-best 109 Beyer Speed Figure – his eighth straight triple-digit speed figure.
Trainer Al Stall, Jr. reported that G M B Racing’s star horse is likely to make his next start in the Grade 1, $750,000 Whitney on August 1 at Saratoga Race Course.
The gelding, who earned his first Grade 1 with a 3 ¼-length score in the Clark in November at Churchill Downs to close out his 6-year-old season, is no stranger to success at Saratoga. Following a third out graduation at Saratoga in August 2016, Tom’s d’Etat went on to collect his third career victory in an allowance race at the Spa that following July over stakes winners Far From Over and Bodhisattva. Last summer, Tom’s d’Etat won the Alydar at Saratoga en route to a fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Woodward.
Tom’s d’Etat boasts six wins in nine starts at the 1 1/8-mile Whitney distance. Having done no wrong since his Woodward defeat, he has since won the Grade 2 Fayette at Keeneland, the Grade 1 Clark and the Oaklawn Mile en route to his Stephen Foster score.
“Five weeks is good timing. He has a good record at Saratoga so that makes sense,” Stall, Jr. said.
Lightly raced for a 7-year-old, Toms d’Etat has won 11-of-18 career starts, six of which have taken place against stakes company.
Stall, Jr. said he was pleasantly surprised with how impressively his horse won on Saturday given that it was only his second start of the year.
“I didn’t know he would run such a powerful race like he did. It was only his second race since the Clark,” said Stall, Jr. “He’s amazing, no doubt. We had planned on running in the Foster all along and luckily it ended up timing that way. It was just a progression.”
A $330,000 purchase as a yearling, Tom’s d’Etat’s owners, GMB Racing is Gayle Benson and Greg Bensel. Benson, whose husband Tom passed away in 2018, owned the New Orleans Saints and is now run by Gayle, 73.
Bensel is G M B general manager along with senior vice president of communications and broadcasting for the Saints and Pelicans. Stall’s family is among the original season-ticket holders for the Saints, with Al having just turned 5 when the NFL awarded the city the franchise on All Saints Day 1966.
With Tom’s D’Etat, there’s always some measure of breath-holding with how he’ll bounce out of a race or a workout. Before he ever ran, the youngster had a bone “flake” arthroscopically removed from an ankle. He won on his third attempt as a 3-year-old, a 1 1/8-mile maiden race by four lengths at Saratoga, then was off until the following March at Fair Grounds.
After allowance wins at Churchill Downs and Saratoga (by nine lengths), the plan was to take on eventual Horse of the Year Gun Runner in the Woodward Stakes (G1). That was derailed when a shadow line on an X-ray indicated the possible start of a condylar fracture. The decision was made to be proactive and put in a surgical screw. Tom’s d’Etat didn’t resume racing for 15 months, when he won an off-the-turf allowance race at Churchill Downs by 7 1/4 lengths, which set him up for his 3 1/2-length score in the Dec. 22 Tenacious over stakes-winners Phat Man and Pioneer Spirit.
“He’d go win, win, wrench an ankle – win, win, wrench an ankle,” Bensel said afterward. “He needed patience, and he’s showing (the payoff) now as an older horse. He’s a great horse, and Al has told us to ‘stick by him, give us time and this horse is going to bear fruit for you.’”
Bred in Kentucky by SF Bloodstock, Tom’s d’Etat is out of the Giant’s Causeway broodmare Julia Tuttle. He boasts lifetime earnings of $1,627,272.