By Ryan Martin and Joe Kristufek
A trio of stakes victories by defending Fair Grounds riding champion Shaun Bridgmohan, one of which came aboard Tom’s d’Etat for New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, highlighted an action-packed Santa Super Saturday program.
With their New Orleans Saints in position to secure a first round playoff bye with a victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Team Benson hoped to kick off what could be a banner weekend with a victory in Saturday’s $75,000 Tenacious stakes, and their Tom’s d’Etat held up his end of the bargain.
Trained by Al Stall, Jr., the 5-year-old son of Smart Strike, who races under the banner of G M B Racing, has had some setbacks in high lightly-raced career, but he proved Saturday afternoon what he’s capable of when right. In French, d’etat means “to conquer” and that’s exactly what he did on this day.
Guided by jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, Tom’s d’Etat broke sharply and was four-wide into the turn under a snug hold from his rider while Grade II winner Colonelsdarktemper laid down fractions of 23.60 and 47.27. Tom’s d’Etat went four wide at the top of the stretch and took command just past the quarter pole and opened up to win the Tenacious Stakes by 3 ½ lengths in a time of 1:42.49. Phat Man made a late kick to get second and Pioneer Spirit took the show spot.
The Tenacious Stakes was Tom’s d’Etat’s second start off of a 16-month layoff. He won a third level allowance optional claiming event over a fast main track at Churchill Downs last time out on November 4. His start prior was a nine length romp at Saratoga on July 27, 2017.
“I think the world of him,” Bridgmohan said following the race. “Today he showed how much class he has. It’s basically his second race in sixteen months and he wasn’t lacking anything. He might have gotten a little tired but, it’s to be expected. In the first race (off the layoff), he was toying with them.”
The Tenacious Stakes was both a first stakes victory and first stakes start for Tom’s d’Etat, who added $45,000 to his lifetime earnings which now stand at $278,492.
“If you like action, all you got to do is follow G M B Racing and the New Orleans Saints and they will put you in action,” Stall said. “We always knew that he had some special talent. There are a lot of things that point to that. His race record, his speed figures and things like that are head and shoulders above a normal racehorse. The horse has been unfortunate; he’s just had some injuries over the years. He is a good moving horse and a clean legged horse so he’s just had some ankle stuff that’s flared up on him from time to time and the good ones overcome it. He obviously has the heart to overcome it. I’ll take my first deep breath on Christmas Eve when we get him out on the pavement and trot him on the road and make sure he’s nice and sound.
“It’s all about talent, he’s a blue-blooded horse,” Stall continued. “He’s got some fancy horses in his pedigree like Candy Ride, a world class stallion. He’s one of the last sons of Smart Strike that’s still around and so there’s a lot to like about him. Hopefully we can move him up and give him a second career as a stallion somewhere also.”
Tom’s d’Etat is out of the Giant’s Causeway broodmare Julia Tuttle whose dam Candy Cane (Arg.) is a full sister to multiple champion producing sire Candy Ride (Arg.).
Several members of Benson’s inner circle were in attendance of the races on Saturday including G M B Racing Manager and Benson’s spokesperson Greg Bensel.
“He’s one of those horses that have just been very stable as he goes and when he’s healthy he’s dominant,” Bensel said. “That’s three wins in a row. He was on his way to (last year’s Grade I) Woodward for a showdown with Gun Runner. Now he got potential to go to the (Grade II $400,000) New Orleans Handicap and square off with (G M B Racing stable mate) Lone Sailor who’s coming back to Fair Grounds for training. He’s an amazing horse.”
Sent off as the 3-5 favorite, Tom’s d’Etat paid $3.40, $2.60 and $2.40 while runner-up Phat Man returned $7.60 and $4.20. Pioneer Spirit paid $3.60.
Completing the order of finish were Snapper Sinclair, Colonelsdarktemper, Cooptado (Arg.) and Thirstforlife.
Earlier on the card, Bridgmohan guided Slam Dunk Racing and Medallion Racing’s Beau Recall (Ire.) to victory in the Blushing K.D. Stakes.
In what was her first start under the tutelage of two-time defending Fair Grounds champion trainer Brad Cox, the 4-year-old daughter of Sir Prancealot (Ire.) stormed home from last to first to take down the mile-and-a-sixteenth event for fillies and mares over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course.
Settled in on the rail at the back of the pack early behind fast opening half-mile splits set over a “good” turf course by 87-1 front runner Full of Zip of 23.17 and 47.51, the Irish-bred 4-year-old daughter of Sir Prancelot angled out at the 3/16ths pole and ran by rivals one by one.
“There was plenty of pace and she settled nicely,” said jockey Shaun Bridgmohan, who won three stakes on the day. “I was able to save all the ground and she gave me a very nice punch turning for home which I needed. She’s very honest and tried real hard. She’s very straightforward to ride.”
Beau Recall ($12.20, $7.20, $4.60) out-kicked Vagabond Princess ($10.60, $6.20) and Dubara ($4.60) late, stopping the timer in 1:41.71.
Campaigned mostly in Southern California since being imported to the U.S. at the end of her 2-year-old season, Beau Recall scored for the fourth time in 19 starts, boosting her career bankroll to $444,912. Thirteen of her runs have come in graded stakes, six of those in grade ones.
“The first time I worked her at Churchill she didn’t really give me anything but then we put her in company and it kind of sharpened her and got her to do a little more, as much as you can do with a turf horse on the dirt,” Cox said. “You could tell just by looking at her form that she had class. I was confident she would run well today. Shaun did a great job. It set up for her with some speed up front and it collapsed and she picked up the pieces. (Assistant trainer) Ricky (Giannini) and the crew have done a great job with her.”
Later on the card, Bridgmohan returned to the winner’s circle once more in the final stakes event of the action packed program when he guided Gray Attempt ($12.00, $6.40 and $4.40) to a wire-to-wire victory in the Sugar Bowl Stakes.
Owned by Dwight Pruett and trained by William ‘Jinks’ Fires, the 2-year-old son of Graydar broke on top and managed to save some ground while setting fractions of 22.23, 45.90 and 57.78. When Bridgmohan asked more of Gray Attempt, he responded and managed to keep eventual runner-up Manny Wah ($7.20 and $4.60) at bay to win by one length in a time of 1:10.45. Hog Creek Hustle ($4.00) finished third.
Gray Attempt entered the Sugar Bowl Stakes off of a maiden victory at second asking over the main track at Churchill Downs, which Bridgmohan was in the irons for.
“He’s getting better,” Bridgmohan said. “The first time I rode him he got tired and the second time he obviously improved and today when I called upon him he was just there for me at every point.”
Fires scored his second Sugar Bowl Stakes victory with Gray Attempt. In 2010 he sent eventual Grade I winner Archarcharch to the New Orleans oval for a win in the six furlong stakes event.
“They’re both very competitive horses,” Fires said. “He is and so was Archarcharch. I thought a lot of this horse though. We were going to run him in the Springboard Mile in Oklahoma but it’s a mile and we thought that going two turns for the first time against a group of horses like that was an awful lot to ask. We’ll hopefully run him in the ($150,000) Smarty Jones at Oaklawn (on January 25). It’s a mile going two turns so we’ll see where we are with that.”
Gray Attempt enhanced his career earnings to $94,700 from his Sugar Bowl Stakes victory.
Super Steed, Assemblyman, Cajun Firecracker, Uncapped and Sovereign Impact rounded out the field.
In other Santa Super Saturday stakes news, John Mentz’s Wynn Time continued to display his outstanding versatility when winning his turf debut in the Bonapaw Stakes.
Trained by Hugh Robertson, the Illinois-bred son of Three Hour Nap sat just off of the pace led by three-time winner over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course Latent Revenge, who set fractions of 22.31, 45.25 and 56.61. Latent Revenge was still in command at the top of the stretch but was finally confronted by Wynn Time at the eighth pole. In the final four strides, Wynn Time was able to get the best of the pacesetter and won by a neck in a time of 1:02.64 while being guided by Marcelino Pedroza. Fort Fortitude finished third.
“He proved today that he can run anything,” Pedroza said. “He’s a great horse that’s why he did what he did today. It’s amazing to ride a horse like him. It doesn’t matter what surface when you got a big horse like him. He likes to be on the outside so I didn’t want to come to me too early.”
With an earned victory in the Bonapaw, Wynn Time now has a victory on all three surfaces on his resume. He broke his maiden over the synthetic surface at Arlington International Racecourse in his career debut and has won five times on the main track including a victory in the Thanksgiving Handicap last month.
“He’ll pretty much run on anything but he’s just got a lot of try to him,” Robertson said. “He knows where the wire is and he wants to get there first. Good horses will run on anything but I doubt that this is his best surface.”
Robertson stated that the $75,000 Duncan F. Kenner Stakes on January 19 would likely be his next start.
Never beaten more than one length in 10 career starts, Wynn Time enhanced his career earnings to $279,820 from the Bonapaw and now has a lifetime record of 10-7-2-1.
Completing the order of finish were Kid Perfect, Balandeen, Kitten’s Cat, Win Lion Win and Savage Battle.
M and J Thoroughbreds and Riverside Bloodstock’s Great Wide Open (Ire.) ($5.20, $3.20, and $2.40) continued his winning ways over the Stall-Wilson Turf Course in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes.
Trained by Conor Murphy and ridden to victory by current Fair Grounds leading rider James Graham, the 6-year-old son of Starspangledbanner (Aus.) set the pace much like he did in his most recent effort over the Fair Grounds lawn and set slow and easy fractions of 24.20, 48.17 and 1:12.20 while Graham saved ground up front. When asked, Great Wide Open extended his lead and drew off down the stretch to take the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes by 4½ lengths. He stopped the clock in a time of 1:41.47. Big Changes ($3.40 and $2.40) and Sir Dudley Digges ($5.60) were a respective second and third the whole way around and maintained their positions at the wire.
“He was a little more aggressive than I would’ve liked for him to be, but he’s a horse that wants to be left alone,” Graham said. “You can’t fight with him too much you just have to let him do his job. At the sixteenth pole I squeezed on him and off he went. We were very unlucky not to get him to the Breeders’ Cup.”
Great Wide Open added $45,000 to his lifetime earnings which now stand at $467,043. The Buddy Diliberto Memorial Stakes was his 12th start this year and was also his first stakes victory. Two starts back he finished second at odds of 81-1 in the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.
Completing the field were Team Colors, Memory Bank, Twenty Four Seven and Teodoro (Ire.). Oscar Nominated was pulled up at the far turn and walked off.