SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – With a history of injuries and infirmities behind him and a confidence-building prep race under his belt, Tom’s d’Etat looks poised to raise his profile in the older male division in Saturday’s Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward Stakes at Saratoga.
Or, as his trainer Al Stall, puts it: “All his excuses he’s had his whole life are behind him now. There are no excuses now.”
Ankle issues sidelined Tom’s d’Etat for more than a year shortly after he won an allowance race at Saratoga in 2017. Since returning, he’s gone 3 for 5 with a second-place finish to McKinzie in the Alysheba Stakes and a third to Seeking the Soul in the Stephen Foster.
Tom’s d’Etat is 3 for 3 at Saratoga with all three wins coming at the Woodward distance of 1 1/8 miles. He is coming off a one-length victory in the Alydar Stakes for which he earned a career-best 104 Beyer Speed Figure.
“It was the perfect race for him. He was even money there as opposed to 15-1 in the Whitney, or whatever he would have been,” said Stall, adding that jockey Joel Rosario “did a spectacular job saving every amount of gasoline and he shows us that in his training. He’s got a lot of energy.”
Rosario is committed to ride Yoshida in the Woodward, so Tom’s d’Etat will be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. Ortiz had ridden 11 winners over the previous seven Saratoga programs through Thursday – and he won the first race on Friday.
Tom’s d’Etat drew the outside post in the nine-horse Woodward, but Stall is fine with that.
“I like the draw. He can follow some speed into the first turn. Everything’s good,” Stall said. “He hit every mark we set up for him after the Alydar. I’m very happy with him.”
In the Woodward, the 6-year-old Tom’s d’Etat is seeking his first graded stakes victory against a field that includes Grade 1 winners Yoshida, who has not won since last year’s Woodward, and Vino Rosso, winner of the Gold Cup at Santa Anita in May, but who is 0 for 3 at Saratoga.
Last year, the Woodward drew a field of 14 and Yoshida, breaking from the rail, circled nine wide under Rosario to beat Gunnevera and win by two lengths. Though he ran a respectable fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, Yoshida hadn’t run well this year until he finished a strong second behind McKinzie in the Whitney.
Rosario was aboard for both the Woodward and Whitney and will ride him Saturday. Jose Ortiz rode him in the four starts in between.
“Rosario seems to get along with him well,” Bill Mott, the trainer of Yoshida said. “Even Jose Ortiz told me that. [Ortiz] was a little frustrated by him.”
Vino Rosso finished 4 3/4 lengths behind Yoshida for third in the Whitney.
“He made a pretty good run at McKinzie at the top of the stretch, he just got to him, and McKinzie was able to quicken a little bit,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “We were hoping to get away a little cleaner and get a little closer trip, just felt like we needed to try and get first run on McKinzie and we just couldn’t quite do that. All in all, I thought it was a solid effort from him.”
Pletcher is taking the blinkers off Vino Rosso, equipment he has worn in his last 10 starts.
“He’s an older horse. Just switching things up. Let him see everything,” Pletcher said. “I don’t think he needs them anymore.”
Pletcher will also run Wooderson, a solid second to Tom’s d’Etat in the Alydar, and Bal Harbour, second in the Monmouth Cup.
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens didn’t like the fact Junior Alvarado rushed Preservationist to make the lead from the outside post in the Whitney. He faded to fourth. Preservationist, who breaks from post 5, will likely have Mr. Buff to follow in the Woodward.
“If he can save a little ground, that would be good,” Jerkens said.
On Thursday, Preservationist blew out three furlongs in 36.53 seconds over the Oklahoma training track.
Mr. Buff did come from off the pace to beat New York-breds in the Evan Shipman Stakes. He has run his best at the Woodward distance of 1 1/8 miles around two turns.
With Junior Alvarado riding Preservationist, Jose Lezcano has picked up the mount on Mr. Buff, who breaks from the rail.
Mongolian Groom was supplemented to the Woodward coming off a third in the Grade 1 Pacific Classic and second in the Grade 2 San Diego, both at Del Mar.
The Woodward goes as race 11 on a 12-race card that begins at 12:30 p.m. and includes the Grade 2 Prioress, the Grade 2 Glens Falls, and Grade 3 Saranac.
This story originally appeared on DRF.com.