Tom Pedulla presents five key takeaways from the $500,000 Stephen Foster Stakes at Churchill Downs and other developments during a weekend marked by spectacular individual performances. The Stephen Foster carried an expense-paid berth in the $7 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7 at Keeneland.
FOUR STRAIGHT: Tom’s d’Etat turned the Stephen Foster into his fourth consecutive stakes victory, easily turning back runner-up By My Standards by 4 ¼ lengths. He narrowly missed breaking the track and stakes record with jockey Miguel Mena aboard for the ride. The 7-year-old’s time of 1:47.30 for the mile-and-an-eighth contest missed the mark set by Victory Gallop by .02. “To draw off like that and almost break the track record was unreal,” said trainer Al Stall Jr. “He ran sub 36 seconds for the final three-eighths. You don’t see many route horses in the country that are able to do that, especially as geared down as he was in the final stages.”
STYLISH COMEBACK: Midnight Bisou, competing for the first time since she missed overtaking Maximum Security by three-quarters of a length in the inaugural running of the $20 million Saudi Cup, made an auspicious return to the races in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis Stakes. She and regular rider Mike Smith easily reeled in pace-setting Serengeti Empress and roared off by 8 ¼ lengths while under a hand ride. “She’s a really special mare. To come back in that sort of style is tremendous,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “She has such an amazing talent and such a great relationship with Mike.” The 5-year-old daughter of Midnight Lute gained an expense-paid berth in the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Longines Distaff in dominating the Fleur de Lis. Tom’s d’Etat and Midnight Bisou are both expected to make their next starts as part of the highly anticipated summer meet at Saratoga Race Course.
IMPRESSIVE TURNAROUND: After winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf to cap an outstanding 2-year-old campaign, Newspaperofrecord turned into a major disappointment in going winless through three starts at 3. The handiwork of Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown has her back in form after a puzzling slide. Now 4, she is off to a quick 2-for-2 start. She scored a front-running victory in the Just a Game on Saturday at Belmont Park, three weeks after she zipped gate-to-wire in the Intercontinental. “It was a good effort off three weeks. I was very proud of her,” Brown said. “My team has done a great job with her. She’s never looked better. She’s training so comfortably in the mornings.”
SWEET CLAIM: Dean Martini went winless through seven starts while under the care of Peter Miller and then Brad Cox, two highly respected conditioners. When she dropped into a maiden claiming race and was made available for $50,000, trainer Tom Amoss pounced on behalf of Raise the BAR Racing. Dean Martini placed second in a June 12 allowance race at Churchill Downs in his first start for his new connections, then rewarded their faith in him by winning the $500,000 Ohio Derby at odds of 14-1. The victory was worth 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Dean Martini would have to be supplemented for $200,000 if he should gain enough points to make the anticipated 20-horse field.
THREEPEAT?: Jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. looks as though he will be very difficult to stop as he bids for a third consecutive Eclipse Award as leading rider in North America. He sits comfortably atop the standings for Belmont Park’s spring-summer meet. His measured ride aboard Newspaperofrecord in the Just a Game capped an afternoon in which he prevailed with half of his 10 mounts. “It’s a dream and I’m really working hard because right now I’m on top in my career,” Ortiz said. “I try to stay focused and I try to do the right thing.”