From helping hand-pick Tom’s d’Etat at the September Yearling Sales for a $330,000 tag in 2014 to developing the son of Smart Strike at Frank Wooten Stables on Carter Street in Camden, the husband-wife training team of Frank and Daphne Wooten waited for their graduate to come into his own.
Fortunately, the Wootens and Tom’s d’Etat’s trainer Al Stall Jr., are patient people.
Owned by GMB Racing, which is the family of the late Tom Benson, whose widow, Gayle Benson, is the owner of the NFL’s New Orleans Saints and the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans, Tom’s d’Etat is named after his late owner.
Tom’s d’Etat did not race as a 2-year-old and finished 11th in his debut on 2016 Kentucky Oaks Day at Churchill Downs. He broke his maiden in his third try in Saratoga later that summer.
Since his maiden score, Tom’s d’Etat has won five of his last six starts including his most recent trip to the starting gate, the $75,000 Tenacious Stakes at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans on Dec. 22, 2018.
Saturday, Tom’s d’Etat will run for a considerably larger purse in the $9 million Pegasus World Cup, a 2 1/8-mile run on the dirt at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. It will mark the graded-stakes debut for Tom’s d’Etat, which shipped to Gulfstream from New Orleans on Tuesday after blowing out an easy half-mile in 48.40 seconds Sunday with regular rider Shaun Bridgmohan aboard.
The work, which came after the mid-morning track renovation break, was eighth-fastest of 80 horses at the distance. In his previous breeze Jan. 12, Tom’s d’Etat went five furlongs in 1:00, fastest of 77 horses.
The Pegasus World Cup will have a 12-horse field go to the post headed by Horse of the Year finalist and 2018 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Accelerate.
Daphne Wooten said Tom’s d’Etat, winner in six of nine starts with a second and with earnings of $278,492, is just coming into his own. He was listed as a 20-1 long shot when post positions were drawn on Tuesday.
“He should be a very live long shot. We loved this horse as a baby and his trainer Al Stall has thought highly of him from the beginning,” she said of Tom’s d’Etat’s chances in the Pegasus. “His career has been interrupted by various injuries but hopefully he is sitting on big effort.”
Stall is equally enthused about his horse’s chances on Saturday in America’s richest Thoroughbred race.
“His last work was the work that focused on getting him ready for the race,” Stall said in a Monday story which was published in BloodHorse.com. “This work was just part of the schedule, kind of did enough to get a day off tomorrow. Looked like he always does, like he was just galloping, going around there with the greatest of ease. So we were really happy with it. Shaun was happy.”
Stall acknowledged that Accelerate and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner City of Light will be the heavy favorites but hopes his horse can get a piece of the purse, if not pull off the upset.
“The big two favorites will be from California, deserving favorites and both Breeders’ Cup winners,” Stall said. “We knew what the field was going to look like a few weeks ago, and everybody looks like they’re coming into the race the right way. It will be exciting, and hopefully a really good race for us.
“He just deserves a chance,” he added. “He’s always deserved a chance. Things just didn’t materialize early in his career. He’s in top shape right now, so we’re going to take a shot.”